Boehner Reaches Out to GOP Governors

Recalls Republican strategy of Gingrich years.

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Ohio Republican John Boehner, presumptively the incoming speaker of the U.S House of Representatives, is asking for help to check the power of the federal government. Help, specifically, that involves strengthening the influence of the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment on the operations of Congress and the White House.

In a letter sent Friday to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, Boehner wrote, “With a new majority in the House, a strengthened Republican Conference in the Senate, and an expanded team of GOP governors committed to reform, we have an opportunity for unprecedented collaboration on behalf of the American people in the effort to stop the expansion of federal power in Washington in hopes of returning power and freedom to states and individuals.”

This is a significant sign, one that indicates Boehner at least is serious about following through on giving the American people what they voted for in last Tuesday’s election: “a smaller, more accountable government in Washington, and policies that honor the Constitution and the rights of states, communities, families and individual citizens.”

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It’s a potentially winning message alongside a tactic that worked once before. After the GOP took over the Congress in 1994 then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, along with Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Barbour, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, worked closely with nearly 30 Republican governors to craft a unified message in support of limited government to counter what the Clinton White House was saying.

This effort to keep the ideas flowing and avenues of communication open boosted, among other efforts, what is still considered a landmark achievement: the GOP-led effort at welfare reform that drew from the experiences of several states, including Wisconsin under then-Gov. Tommy Thompson and Michigan under then-Gov. John Engler, something Boehner mentioned in his letter.

“In the mid-1990s, working together, reform-minded GOP Governors and legislators in Congress forced Washington to enact and implement historic welfare reform legislation now regarded by many as the most successful domestic policy change in a generation. This joint initiative was successful because Republican governors and members of Congress worked together to force Washington to heed the will of the American people.”

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The approach to governing that Boehner is moving towards, which follows up on the commitments made in the GOP’s Pledge to America, is a harbinger once again of a shift in and of power away from Washington and out of the halls of Congress and towards ideas that work in the real world rather than ivory tower theories that remain unproven outside the halls of academia.

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