In explaining what the GOP-led House of Representatives has done in the first year of its majority, Boehner defended a record seen as imperfect by many conservatives.
“Even with control of all branches of government, real reform doesn’t happen all at once,” Boehner said. “It’s one step at a time.”
Boehner told the Conservative Political Action Conference that this methodical approach can be maintained while at the same time Republicans remain “as ambitious as hell” in pursuing conservative reforms.
“Even as we recognize the realities of today, we need to be as ambitious as hell about what we need to do in our future,” he said.
Boehner’s speech presented a vision tempered by the reality of legislating in a partisan, deeply divided Congress, where bold conservative initiatives – such as the repeal of ObamaCare – pass the House, only to be ignored or defeated by Senate Democrats.
Boehner highlighted the changes the House has made, such as banning earmarks, conducting a more open legislative process, and an intra-party dynamic that often has led to very public infighting between the Republican leadership and conservative freshmen.
Boehner said this tension “doesn’t bother me at all,” adding it is exactly the way he likes it. “Yes things are harder, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
Boehner poked fun at press reports characterizing every major House vote as a “test” of his speakership. He defended conservative House members who have sometimes opposed him, saying he takes it as a compliment that new, junior members could have such a public impact.
“They always like to use the word ‘tumultuous’ to describe our majority. Well, let me just tell you, it doesn’t bother me at all. I actually take it as a compliment – because that’s the whole idea, to let the place breathe, to let the People’s House work its will.
“I’d much rather lead a tumultuous majority that listens to the people than one that substitutes its will for the will of the American people.”
Boehner asked the crowd to support his persistent, methodical approach to reform, saying that conservatives couldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
“Do we want the attendees of CPAC in 2015 to say, ‘Y’know, they spoke of great things but they always allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And if only so-and-so were our nominee, if we had more seats in Congress, if only this bill went a little bit further.’ Or, do we want them to say, ‘Thank God they locked arms so we could do better by our children and keep this nation strong and free?”