Salena Zito

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner says the country is at odds with Washington lawmakers on the economy and people will see the evidence in the November election.

"The American people will vote their pocketbook," Boehner told the Tribune-Review from his Capitol office. "This election is going to be about President Barack Obama's economic policies. They failed. Matter of fact, I'd argue they made things worse."

Sixteen months after taking the gavel as the 61st House speaker, the Cincinnati Republican who grew up in a Democratic household with 11 siblings said he's focused on holding his party's majority. The GOP has a 242-190 advantage in the House, with three vacated Democratic seats unfilled, and would have to lose 25 seats to lose the majority.

Boehner intends to spend this summer and fall campaigning for colleagues and new Republican candidates on ballots. He knows that partisanship and the divisional politics of last year's budget and debt reduction talks caused voters to view Congress caustically, resulting in a historically low 15 percent public approval rate in the most recent polls.

"It is lower than it has ever been," Boehner acknowledged. "People are concerned about the future of the country. They are concerned about their kids and their grandkids, and they don't see Washington answering the call. They don't see the solutions to the problems."

He stands behind his April prediction that the Republican Party has a two-thirds chance of keeping control of the House.

"I rattled a lot of cages when I said it, but the fact is we have a lot of challenges here," he said. "You never know what is going to affect the political environment over the next six months. If the election were today, I would say we would have a 100 percent chance of holding the House."

His biggest frustration since becoming speaker was his inability to reach an agreement with Obama over the budget, Boehner said.

"Even though we had an agreement, he walked away from it," he said. "It was a real disappointment because it would have done an awful lot to lessen the uncertainty around the economy" and in turn prod investors to reinvest in American businesses.

Negotiations between the White House and the speaker over the budget and reduction of the nation's more than $15 trillion debt ended with dramatic stalemates. Congress narrowly avoided two government shutdowns by passing stopgap spending bills but never approved a budget, though the House passed its version.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.