The Value of a Majority

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released the following letter this afternoon to House Republican Members and Members-Elect outlining his commitment to leading the House majority in listening to the American people, and carrying the GOP’s “banner of freedom, economic opportunity and limited government.”  An electronic version of the letter, released in advance of tomorrow’s House leadership elections, can be downloaded here.


November 13, 2012

Dear Member/Member-Elect,

Two years ago, as we prepared for the opening sessions of the 112th Congress, I vowed our Republican majority in the House of Representatives would be an outpost in Democratic-controlled Washington for the priorities of the American people.  The idea was that we’d be the vanguard for the like-minded GOP White House and Senate that would arrive after 2012.

We find ourselves today with a different mission.  For the foreseeable future, we will be the last line of defense in Washington for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much when left to its own devices.

Americans re-elected President Obama and a Democratic majority in the Senate.  But they also re-affirmed our majority in the House. Indeed, tempered by a few painful losses, the historic freshman class of 2010 returns nearly intact, joined by some new Members-elect who are certain to further invigorate our conference.

Together with the 30 Republicans who will serve in 2013 as governors of their states, we have the responsibility – and opportunity – of carrying our party’s banner of freedom, economic opportunity and limited government into the future.

Some would have us roll that banner up and tuck it away. 

That isn’t going to happen. 

A better approach is to hoist the banner high, true to our principles, with a determination to govern and serve responsibly.  We serve the American people, millions of whom entrusted us with themajority – and that’s what they’re counting on us to do.

Our core principles are strong, and enduring.  They are the principles upon which a great nation was built.  And they are the principles upon which, in time, a stronger, prosperous America will be built as well.

Our party doesn’t need new principles.  What it needs is a new plan – a strategy that speaks to Americans from all walks of life, and properly conveys our passion for reforms that preserve and renew the American Dream.

Problems in our party’s infrastructure for campaigns and elections must be diagnosed and remedied to ensure our resources are fully deployed in support of our principles.

And most importantly, we need to redouble our commitment to the pillars of the reform agenda for which our majority has fought and sacrificed, and endured. 

Here’s what I have in mind.  It boils down to four parts, which I’m eager to discuss further with you this week.


Our economic vision of pro-growth tax reform with fewer loopholes and lower rates for all – and entitlement reforms critical to reducing the primary drivers of our debt – represent not just a path to avert the “fiscal cliff,” but also the basis for solutions to the biggest problem our country faces.  The debt is the greatest challenge our country faces – a direct threat to our children’s future.  It can only be solved with economic growth. Raising tax rates, as President Obama proposed on the campaign trail, will hurt our economy, making the problem worse. 

As I said last week, 2013 must be the year we enact significant tax reform andentitlement reform to begin the process of solving our debt problem.  Our first challenge of the new Congress is to deal successfully with the final challenge of the current Congress.  That means averting the fiscal cliff in a manner that steers clear of increased tax rates and encourages economic growth instead.

As I also said last week, the president’s health care law – which adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our debt already exceeds the size of our whole economy – must remain on the table.  The president’s re-election means it’s the law of the land at the moment – but we can’t afford ObamaCare, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. 

I’ve long maintained that there are three possible routes to repeal of ObamaCare: the courts, the presidential election, and our constitutional responsibility for oversight.  With two of them having come up short, the third and final of these becomes more important than ever.


Private-sector job growth eluded us during President Obama’s first term, in part because of the regulatory juggernaut that looms over small businesses.  The president’s second-term almost certainly will bring a renewed zeal on the part of the White House to implement through regulation what the president has been unable to impose on job creators through legislation.  Our constitutionalresponsibility for oversight of the Executive Branch – and our readiness to move legislation that prevents excessive regulatory meddling in our economy – will be critical in the coming year as our economy struggles to grow.

Our oversight activity need not be limited to oversight of the Executive Branch. With the president’s re-election, a continued stream of Obama-appointed judges at the district and appellate level is guaranteed.  We should not be hesitant to exercise our constitutional oversight responsibility in circumstances in which judicial overreach has occurred or threatens to occur, particularly when it poses harm to our economy.

Just as we’ll be ready to say where we disagree with President Obama and his Democratic-controlled Senate, we must also be prepared to identify areas inwhich we agree or see opportunity for common ground.  In 2011, trade was one such area, resulting in the enactment of important Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama.  The year or two ahead may bring the opportunity for even more significant trade agreements involving the Pacific region.  A Democratic-controlled House stalled such achievements for years at the expense of U.S. jobs; our Republican majority must ensure they advance.


Warning signs are flashing on the dashboard for our party.  Some of the problems are tactical in nature; others are strategic.  We can’t ignore them and expect to assemble a winning electoral coalition in the future. 

We need a state-of-the-art political infrastructure fueled by rock-solid data that can be relied upon to turn out voters when we need them in the places they’re needed most.  We need accurate survey data, and technology in place that will ensure such data is put to use.  And as I noted earlier, our strategy at all levels must be aimed at reaching potential voters from all walks of life.  That doesn’t mean changing our principles; it means changing our approach.  


While challenges lie ahead for our party, opportunities clearly exist as well.  From the House to the Senate to the 30 states who will have a Republican governor in 2013, wehave a very deep bench of leaders eager for the chance to take our country in a different direction.  My leadership style is to recognize the unique talent and potential of every member of our team, and put members in a place where they can grow and succeed.
Some of the policy frontiers that lie ahead offer possibilities as well.  On immigration, for example, we have an opportunity to offer innovative solutions rooted in our enduring principles.


Commitment to principle provides clarity of purpose that is essential to successful leadership.  With it comes the confidence to articulate not just what we’re against, but what we are for.

When in 2007 I became House Republican Leader, one of my first and toughest duties was handing Rep. Pelosi the Speaker’s gavel on Opening Day.  I did so with a gentle note of caution for the incoming Democratic majority. 

“The value of a majority lies not in the opportunity to wield great power,” I said, “but in the chance to use limited power to do great things.”

Having served as Speaker now for two years, I believe more strongly than ever thatthis must be our test.  The American people need us to act courageously, think selflessly, and lead boldly.  Having humbled us with their confidence, the American people deserve nothing less.

I ask that you give me the honor of serving as your Speaker as we stand to meet that test. 



                                                            John Boehner