U.S. Speaker Boehner says doesn't like being called 'spineless'

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2015 2:33 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday he doesn't like being called "spineless" or a "squish" by critics, and he vowed to prove his mettle to lawmakers who bopposed his re-election earlier this week.

Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House on Tuesday even as 25 members of his own Republican party declined to support him, the biggest such intra-party rebellion against a speaker candidate since 1859. His detractors, many of them on the right wing of his party, say Boehner is too prone to compromise with Democrats.

Boehner said that portrayal is false.

"During my years here when I voted, I have the eighth most conservative voting record in the Congress. And it does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish," he told reporters.

Since becoming speaker in 2011, Boehner has faced a series of internal challenges to his leadership, particularly on his handling of budget matters in which small-government Tea Party Republicans have demanded a more aggressive confrontation of President Barack Obama's agenda.

In 2013, Boehner warned against a government shutdown, but Tea Party lawmakers pushed for a showdown over Obama's healthcare law that resulted in a 16-day closure of the federal government.

Boehner said what hurt the most was being called "establishment" by his fellow Republicans.

"I'm the most anti-establishment speaker we've ever had," he said, noting he had stopped lawmakers from using "earmarks," the legislative provisions that directed funds to be spent on specific projects. Those projects typically benefited lawmakers' home towns and sometimes were of questionable value.

Boehner said he had not decided yet whether to reverse a decision to kick two Republicans off a key panel for opposing his re-election to the top House job. He said he understood that criticism comes with being speaker.

"I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin. And I'm going to do my best to show all of our members, Democrats and Republicans and those members who voted against me, that I'm up to the job that I was given," Boehner said.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Andrew Hay)