As Congress and the White House struggle to reach a deal over how to avoid the fiscal cliff, Republican House Speaker John Boehner is once again at the centre of Washington’s high-stakes budget negotiations. It’s a familiar role for Boehner, the Ohio congressman who has spent more than two decades in the House of Representatives.
But Boehner is more than just your average Beltway political hack. Here’s a look at the path that got him to the top of Capitol Hill.
Boehner's parents were Democrats and owned a bar in Reading, Ohio, where the future congressman worked at with his 12 siblings.
In high school, Boehner played linebacker in high school under future Notre Dame University coach Gerry Faust. After graduating, he enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War, but was discharged eight weeks later because of a bad back.
It took him seven years to graduate from Xavier College because he was paying his own way through school. While he was working one of those jobs -- as a night shift janitor at a chemical plant -- he met his future wife Debbie, who worked in customer service at the company.
Boehner eventually graduated with a degree in business administration. He took a job in sales at Nucite Sales, a plastics distribution company, and went on to run the company after the owner died.
He made his first foray into politics during the early 1980s, as a trustee for Union Township in southeastern Ohio, and was elected to the Ohio state legislature in 1985.
In his first congressional election, Boehner beat the Democratic incumbent Donald Lukens handily, after Lukens was accused of paying an underage girl for sex.
Boehner and six other freshman congressman -- including future Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum -- formed The Gang Of Seven, which rallied against corruption in the House.
The group exposed the House banking scandal, exposing several members of the House who had welshed on money owed to the House Bank, as well as problems at the House Post Office.
Boehner played a key role as an ally to Gingrich during the latter's rocky tenure as House Speaker, and was involved in the authoring of Gingrich's Contract with America.
Specifically, Boehner was involved in authoring the Congressional Accountability Act, an aspect of Gingrich's Contract with America, which forced Congress to comply with several specific laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and other laws.
When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Boehner was elected as the House GOP Conference Chairman.
Boehner was one of the four key members of Congress -- along with the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, then-Republican Senator Judd Gregg and Democratic Representative George Miller -- to craft the bipartisan No Child Left Behind legislation that was signed into law in 2002.
Source: Congressional Research Service
Boehner is an incredibly savvy fundraiser. During every election cycle since 1998, Boehner has raised upwards of $1 million for his House Republican colleagues through his Leadership PAC, Freedom Project. In 2006, he raised more than $2 million for his fellow Republicans, and during the 2010 cycle he raised more than $3 million.
This past cycle he raised $3.6 million through Freedom Project, all of which went to Republican House candidates.
Source: centre for Responsive Politics
When the Democrats took back the House of Representatives in 2006, Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert announced that he would not seek the Minority Leader position. The No. 2 Republican, Tom Delay, also stepped down, due to legal issues.
Boehner ran for the Minority Leader job, beating Indiana Congressman Mike Pence in the second round of voting.
In addition to building GOP support for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, Boehner gave a passionate speech on the floor of the House, describing the vote as one which separated 'the men from the boys and the girls from the women.'
Boehner managed to unite the entire House Republican caucus against the stimulus bill put forth by newly-inaugurated President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Boehner, as the default leader of the opposition, said:
The president made clear when we started this process that this was about jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And what it's turned into is nothing more than spending, spending and more spending.
He also theatrically dropped the thousand-page bill on the floor of the House while accusing Democrats of not reading the bill.
Source: New York Times
The passage of the Affordable Care Act was one of the most contentious fights on the hill in recent memory, and that was largely a result of Boehner's strong opposition to the bill.
When the act passed, the Minority Leader said:
This is a somber day for the American people. By signing this bill, President Obama is abandoning our founding principle that government governs best when it governs closest to the people.
Once Boehner took over as Speaker in 2010, the Republican majority in the House voted 33 times to overturn the bill.
Source: New York Times
Boehner's golf game is legendary in Washington. He plays frequently with donors and colleagues, and is ranked ninth in Golf Digest's 2011 ranking of congressional golfers.
Boehner's golf game got him into some trouble in September 2011, when he bragged to Vice President Joe Biden about playing 'the round of the decade' at Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska during the recess, hitting two under par when all was said and done.
The issue was that Boehner had a hot microphone in front of him, and the conversation took place at the top of the lectern right before President Obama's Jobs Speech.
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