U.S. House Speaker John Boehner says over the years he has aided his home district by helping cities cut through bureaucratic red tape on major projects, working to retain large employers and helping key job providers with their pension obligations.
In an exclusive interview Thursday with the Journal-News, the West Chester Twp. Republican was asked to talk about specific ways he has helped Ohio’s 8th Congressional District — which covers Butler, Preble, Darke, Miami, Preble and Clark counties and part of Mercer County — during his 20-plus years in Washington, D.C.
Boehner, who has long touted his opposition to earmarks and pork-barrel spending, has been criticized by Democrats and even some conservatives in Butler County for not bringing enough money, projects and jobs back to his home district.
“What is our representative doing to help bring jobs back to the 8th District and Ohio?” said Butler County Democratic Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro. “And what does he say to the 40,000 Ohioans who lost their unemployment on Dec. 28 after he refused to allow a vote on extending their benefits? Too many Ohioans are living with uncertainty while our representative continues to serve the interests of the few.”
But Boehner defended his track record of delivering for his constituents. He pointed to his role in bringing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Hamilton to the table to get the Meldahl Lock and Dam power plant online. The Meldahl facility is designed to increase Hamilton’s clean, hydroelectric power source to nearly 75 percent.
“I worked very closely with the city of Hamilton for close to 15 years to get the Meldahl Dam built,” Boehner said Thursday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce office in Middletown. “Hamilton was stuck in a labyrinth of rules and regulations, and they were getting nowhere in a hurry.”
Boehner also noted he is currently helping West Chester Twp.-based AK Steel — Butler County’s third-largest employer with about 2,400 full-time workers — with its pension funding obligation. He mentioned helping Tipp City (near Dayton) retain a large employer that was looking at moving out of state and working with Darke County and the city of Piqua to upgrade their airports.
Boehner said he’s also done his part to help the Butler County Republican Party.
“I try to be helpful. I don’t try to bigfoot what the party’s doing,” Boehner said. “We try to be helpful and encouraging and write big checks to them.”
The Speaker said he was aware of the recent rifts and divisions within the county GOP and its financial struggles.
“It’s been difficult to find someone to serve as chairman,” Boehner said of the county GOP. “I’ve been through a lot of chairmen through the 30 years I’ve been around this.”
He called past chairman Carlos Todd the best chairman the Butler County Republican Party has had in the past 30 years.
Newly appointed party chairman Todd Hall, the grandson of Carlos Todd, said a lot of the issues Boehner referenced about the county GOP are changing.
“I think the party is no longer in turmoil internally, at all,” Hall said. “We’re no longer fighting among ourselves. That is the past, and we got the future.”
Hall said he appreciates Boehner who “has always come to us with open arms and has always helped us when we needed help.”
Though first elected to go to Washington, D.C., in 1990, Boehner said “the fire’s still in the belly” to be there. He said he wanted to go to Washington “to fight for what I would describe as a smaller, less costly and more accountable federal government.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine I would ever have been there that long,” Boenher said. “I thought there was a point at which you could succeed and I would leave. But what you learn is this struggle has been going on for 235 years, and it’s going on a lot longer than I’m there. I’m doing my part for a period to go there and fight for what I believe as a small business guy.”