STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A familiar pattern unfolded yesterday in Washington. Democrats introduced immigration legislation. Republicans denounced it as a cynical move. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans voted to block debate on financial regulation. That comes after their opposition to a health care law. As the fall election approaches, Republicans know they have to show they stand for something. And that's challenge we discussed yesterday with House Republican leader John Boehner. If his party wins this fall, he would become speaker of the House.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): We have a project underway that people will see soon that will engage the American people in helping us develop our agenda that we would enact if we're fortunate enough to win the majority in November.
INSKEEP: That's interesting you talk about developing an agenda, because when I mentioned this interview on Twitter and Facebook, one of the responses that came back from people was: Are they going to stand for anything other than opposing everything the Democrats stand for?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, if you look over the course of the last 16 months, every time we've had to oppose our Democrat colleagues, we've offered what we thought was a better solution - whether it was the stimulus bill last year, that we thought could create a lot more jobs. And I think that our common-sense ideas to reform the health care system made a lot more sense than the proposal that was passed by the majority.
INSKEEP: If your party succeeds well enough in this election that you become speaker of the House, will you seek repeal of President Obama's health care law?
Rep. BOEHNER: I think that we need to repeal the health care law and replace it with common-sense steps that will lower the cost of health insurance in America.
INSKEEP: You said you do support repeal. You're saying...
Rep. BOEHNER: I - we need to repeal the bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that'll bring down the cost of health insurance.
INSKEEP: As you know, Democrats are already pointing to things that are changing in America because of this bill. They will point to the fact that college seniors who would've been kicked off their family's insurance plans when they graduated will get to stay on. Insurance companies are now saying they're going to end the practice of rescission, where they take - or at least modify it - the practice where they take insurance...
Rep. BOEHNER: Both of those ideas, by the way, came from Republicans and are part of the common-sense ideas that we ought to have in the law.
INSKEEP: Well, are you going to repeal those two specific things?
Rep. BOEHNER: What I want to repeal are the other 158 mandates, commissions, boards that set up all the infrastructure for the government to take control of our health care system.
INSKEEP: Given news developments of the last few days and weeks, do you anticipate that immigration will be a big part of the discussion in the 2010 campaign?
Rep. BOEHNER: The American people are asking the question: Where are the jobs? When are we going to get the economy going again? And even the president, over the last couple of days, has admitted that immigration reform isn't going to happen this year.
INSKEEP: One of the news events that I'm thinking of is that, in Arizona, the governor signed a law requiring that all immigrants carry identification papers at all times so they can always prove, at a moment's notice, that they are legal. Do you approve of that legislation?
Rep. BOEHNER: I don't know all the specifics of it, but the people of Arizona, under the 10th Amendment, have the right to create their own laws. Because of the federal government's inability to control the border, you've got more violence on the border and more violence in Arizona than almost any other state.
INSKEEP: How important do you think the Latino vote is going to be in 2010?
Rep. BOEHNER: I think it's too early to make that calculation. Matter of fact, pollsters are having a very difficult time modeling what this election this year looks like. People who are - never been involved in the process, who are scared to death, they see all the spending, all the debt. And the result of all of this is that Americans have driven off of their couches and into the streets.
INSKEEP: I understand you're saying it's difficult to model this election. But when you look across the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, how many seats are in play right now?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, typically, you are correct. There would be some limited number of seats in play. Let me remind you that Scott Brown won the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts. If Scott Brown can win in Massachusetts, there isn't a seat in America the Republicans can't win. And what we're seeing every day is the playing field widen, widen beyond anything we've seen around here during my 20 years.
INSKEEP: How wide is the playing field now, as far as you're concerned?
Rep. BOEHNER: At least 100 seats.
INSKEEP: You think there are 100 seats in the United States that could change hands one way or the other.
Rep. BOEHNER: I do.
INSKEEP: When do you think that this election is going to coalesce, and you'll have a firmer sense of what's going on?
Rep. BOEHNER: I don't know that we'll know that until we get closer to the election. It's all about who shows up and votes. And come the day after the election, we'll have a much clearer picture.
INSKEEP: Congressman Boehner, thanks very much.
Rep. BOEHNER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's House Minority Leader John Boehner.
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