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Boehner's District Assesses His Role In Debt Talks
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Boehner's District Assesses His Role In Debt Talks


Boehner's District Assesses His Role In Debt Talks
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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: Speaker of the House John Boehner has played a key role in the debt ceiling negotiations. He's had to wrangle support from a divided caucus and from those across the aisle as well. Maryanne Zeleznik of member station WVXU spent some time with voters in his Ohio district who are keeping a close eye on the man elected to represent them.

MARYANNE ZELEZNIK: Ohio's 8th Congressional district tends to lean conservative, and since 1990 it's turned to John Boehner to represent this southwest Ohio area of rural farms and upscale suburbs. In the past, it's been hard to find many in the area critical of Boehner, but that was not the case this weekend. Darren Williamson is from Westchester, Boehner's home city.

DARREN WILLIAMSON: He's making a pretty - a claim that he's beholden to the Tea Party; the 90 freshmen that came in this year basically are holding the entire Congress hostage, and he's not much of a speaker if he can't get them to fall in line.

ZELEZNIK: Finding consensus has been a struggle for the House speaker. It took many days of rewriting and political maneuvering to squeak his debt ceiling plan through the House. There's a split in the GOP between traditional members and Tea Party loyalists committed to smaller government, spending cuts and absolutely no tax increases. Bob Coop of Westchester says Boehner should stand stronger with the Tea Party.

BOB COOP: I think for sure this country's about ready to jump off the edge of the cliff and everybody's going willingly and no one's recognizing the fact that this economy is about ready to crash under this large government philosophy.

ZELEZNIK: Coop isn't the only Tea Party loyalist in Boehner's district. It hosted some of the first Tea Party rallies in the area and has a lot of support. But not everyone agrees with the Tea Party's efforts. Matt Luther lives in Mason, just outside Boehner's district.

MATT LUTHER: You can probably tell from my haircut, I'm in the military; I'm in the National Guard. I've been in the military for 19 years. This is the first time we've ever gone to war and not raise taxes. So, for the Republicans to say we're not going to raise taxes is wrong-headed...

ZELEZNIK: But Luther is not saying additional spending will solve all the problems either.

LUTHER: Even if we raise these taxes, it's not going to raise the revenue that's required to start overcoming this deficit and bringing it down. We have to cut entitlement programs too.

ZELEZNIK: The process of meeting the budget can be complicated, and some say the polarization playing out in Washington makes it worse. Emily King of Liberty Township says she wishes the Republican Party and Boehner would be more giving.

EMILY KING: You can't be the guy standing up there saying, no, no, no, no, no, we're not going to do anything; we're going to stand strong. There has to be compromise. In anything, there has to be compromise.

ZELEZNIK: Compromise is what 73-year-old Mary Martha Baker of Hamilton wants to see. As she loads groceries into her car, she remembers the bitter partisanship that shut down the government in the '90s.

MARY MARTHA BAKER: I don't want to see things get worse. We had a hole for Obama to get out of that he just hasn't had a chance - you can't do that in three years. And I think he needs cooperation.

ZELEZNIK: Even if the two sides work more harmoniously, John Brown is not hopeful. As he loads up his truck at the close of the Hamilton farmer's market, he says the politicians are all just a bunch of good ole boys trying to pad their own pockets. He works hard for his living and expects everybody else to do that too. But he says he's not seeing that commitment from the current crop of Washington lawmakers. His solution:

JOHN BROWN: Yeah, get all voted out of office and they get a whole new group of people in there that really give a damn, you know. It's just, that's the way it is. I mean, if you watch television and it's a shame. And big business and lobbyists, they ruining the country. The middle class don't stand a chance.

ZELEZNIK: But with the next election still a year away, voters must look to Boehner and others already in office to come up with a compromise. There's not much more time left for the country to avoid defaulting on its bills. For NPR News, I'm Maryanne Zeleznik in Cincinnati.

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