U.S. House Majority Leader
Born November 17, 1949, in Cincinnati, OH; married Debbie Gunlack; children: Lindsay, Tricia. Education: Xavier University, B.S., 1977.
Addresses: Home —West Chester, OH. Office —1011 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-3508.
Worked at his family's business, Andy's Cafè, as a minor, and as a janitor at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH; joined Nucite Sales in the 1970s, becoming part-owner and then president; elected township trustee in Union, OH, 1982; won a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, 1984, and reelected in 1986 and 1988; elected to the House of Representatives from Ohio's Eighth Congressional District, 1990, and reelected every two years; chaired the House Republican Conference, 1995-99; named chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce House, 2000; Majority Leader, 2006—.
John A. Boehner won a tight race to become Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives in early 2006. The Ohio Republican succeeded his ousted House colleague, Tom DeLay, as holder of one of the most powerful positions in Washington.
Born in 1949 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Boehner—whose surname is pronounced "bay-ner"—grew up in the suburb of Reading. His father ran a bar in Cincinati,
Midway through his college career, Boehner enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the height of the Vietnam War. "The people with long hair who were protesting against the war I thought were un-American at the time, " he recalled in an interview with Weston Kosova in the New Republic. He never saw combat duty, however, after aggravating a back problem dating back to his high school football years. Discharged after six weeks, he returned to Ohio to complete his education.
Boehner worked several jobs in order to put himself through Xavier, including one as a campus janitor. By the time he graduated in 1977, he had become part-owner of Nucite Sales, a manufacturers' representative firm that served the packaging and plastics industry. Boehner eventually became president of Nucite, and his professional advancement coincided with a switch in political allegiances. He had been raised in a staunchly Democratic family, but became a Republican in the late 1970s when he realized he had just paid more in taxes on his annual earnings for his first full-time, post-collegiate job than he had grossed for the 1976 tax year.
In 1982, Boehner ran for and won his first political office, as a township trustee in Union, Ohio, which later became West Chester Township. Two years later, he was elected to the state house of representatives, and won re-election for two additional two-year terms. In 1990, he made a bid for Congress as a representative of the Eighth District of Ohio after a sex scandal tarnished the Republican incumbent. Despite being heavily outspent by a second, more experienced challenger in the Republican primary, Boehner won the first race, and bested his Democratic opponent that November by a wide margin.
Boehner emerged as one of the most prominent freshman House members in Washington that first year. He teamed with several other new Republican lawmakers to launch an ethics crusade against some House veterans. Boehner and the others, who became known as the Gang of Seven, made national headlines for calling attention to abuses involving the House Bank. The scandal resulted in felony charges for some of the 350 lawmakers involved, 77 of whom either resigned or did not run for reelection. Many of those singled out were Democrats, the party that had enjoyed a majority in the House of Representatives since 1954.
Boehner had a powerful mentor in the House in Georgia's Newt Gingrich, and was involved in drafting the GOP's "Contract With America, " the set of legislative and policy goals presented in time for the 1994 Congressional elections. Democratic control of the House ended with that election, which became known as the "Republican Revolution." House Republicans elected Gingrich the new Speaker of the House. Boehner was chosen to serve as chair of the House Republican Conference in 1995, an influential caucus of GOP lawmakers.
Three years later, GOP lost five seats in the House, and Gingrich was blamed for the debacle. He resigned his seat, and though some speculated that Boehner might resign from office as well after being replaced as House Republican Conference chair, he remained on the job. In 2000, he was made chair of the House Committee on Education and the Work-force, and a year later newly elected President George W. Bush selected him to shepherd the No Child Left Behind bill through Congress. The education bill passed, and as a show of gratitude Bush formally signed it into law in early 2002 while visiting Hamilton, Ohio, in Boehner's district. Voters there had consistently reelected him to Congress by large margins every two years, with the 2004 results tallying 195, 000 for Boehner and just 87, 000 for his Democratic challenger.
Boehner reemerged on the national political scene early in 2006, when Representative Tom DeLay of Texas announced he would resign from his seat and his post as House Majority Leader because of the criminal indictments he was facing for violating campaign finance laws. The Majority Leader title is the second most powerful one in the chamber, after Speaker of the House, and its holder is integral in setting the legislative agenda for the annual session. Boehner put his name in for election, and lost in the first round of voting to Missouri's Roy Blunt. The votes were split three ways, however, and a run-off contest took place on February 1, which Boehner won by a count of 122-109.
After the scandal that had ended DeLay's political career, the GOP's opponents countered that the selection of Boehner by House Republicans signaled an unwillingness to reform, for Boehner was known to have extensive ties to tobacco political-action-committees and lobbyists for student-loan providers. The Democratic National Committee chair, Howard Dean, joked that "with Boehner in power, lobbyists won't have to wait in the lobby anymore, because they'll have their own back door into the majority leader's office, " according to Plain Dealer journalist Sabrina Eaton.
Boehner is father to two daughters with his wife, Debbie, whom he met in college. An avid golfer, he is known in the Beltway for the annual beach-themed party he hosts. Despite the warnings from Democratic lawmakers, Boehner assured his district and the nation that his party was committed to ethics-reform issues in Congress. "The elected representatives of Congress must always be respectful of the public's right to know, " he wrote in an editorial for USA Today in April of 2006, "and attentive to the guidelines governing public officials' conduct."
Christian Science Monitor , February 6, 2006, p. 3.
Cincinnati Post , January 27, 2006, p. A1.
New Republic , February 20, 1995, p. 22.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), February 3, 2006, p. A1.
USA Today , April 25, 2006, p. 12A.
— Carol Brennan