House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that despite a toxic political climate in Washington and his deep ideological differences with President Barack Obama, the two "have a good personal relationship," even as he criticized the president's health-care plan and stewardship of the economy.
The Ohio Republican also opened up about the GOP presidential field during an interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “I’ve got a big job to do here in the Capitol,” he acknowledged. “Voters around the country who choose to vote in Republican primaries will pick one of these candidates. And whoever that candidate is, I will support.”
Boehner and Lauer spoke on the same day presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich announced he was dropping a third of his campaign staff and asking his campaign manager to step down. The previous night, fellow GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney appeared on the Tonight Show and made a few jokes in an attempt to shake his reputation as stiff and humorless.
It was also a day when U.S. Supreme Court justices listened to oral arguments on the president's health reform law — legislation Boehner opposes as “the most far-reaching law that Congress has ever passed and signed into law by a president.”
According to a new CNN poll on the health care law, 23 percent of respondents say, "Leave it like it is," while 43 percent say "just overturn some provisions." Ten percent who don't like it say it's because it doesn't go far enough. Meanwhile, Congress’ approval rating hovers at roughly 12 percent, according to an analysis by Real Clear Politics, while the president’s approval rating is at roughly 47 percent.
“All I know is that when I talk to employers around my district — they're concerned that Obamacare is getting in the way of them hiring more people,” Boehner said. However, he acknowledged that there are “certainly signs of life” in the slow but steady economic recovery.
“But it does put some Republicans in a difficult position,” Lauer pressed. “You've got better job numbers. You've got better manufacturing numbers. Consumer debt is down, consumer confidence is up. Isn't it hard to run against a recovering economy?”
“But I would argue that it should be doing a lot better,” Boehner said. “It’s doing better in spite of what Washington is doing to the economy.”
The New York Times recently published a story that offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the tensions that arose last summer as Obama and Boehner’s efforts to resolve the nation’s mushrooming debt unraveled. But Boehner has also spoken in the president's defense, chiding Romney for Romney's criticism of Obama's "hot mic" comment to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that after the 2012 general election there would be more “flexibility” to negotiate issues of missile defense.
Indeed, Boehner portrayed his relationship with the president as amicable. The two have shared meals and have played golf together.
“We have our disagreements. We know we come from different parties. We come from different backgrounds,” Boehner told Lauer. “We have different ideas about what the appropriate role of the federal government is. But having said that, we get along just fine. We have a good personal relationship. And I think that's important in this town.”
TODAY.com political contributor Halimah Abdullah is the site’s woman in Washington.