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A Profile of House Speaker John Boehner

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A Profile of House Speaker John Boehner

Tan prominently on display, House Minority leader John Boehner speaks following a meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the economy and jobs Feb. 9, 2010 outside of the West Wing of the White House

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Conservative Credentials:

On every major issue, John Andrew Boehner has proven himself a fiscal and social conservative. Boehner has perfected the ability to disagree with his liberal colleagues without losing their respect. Mentored by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after after joining Congress in 1990, Boehner ultimately helped orchestrate the "Contract with America" and the 1994 Republican Revolution, which returned the GOP to power in the House and Senate in the middle of President Bill Clinton's first term. Boehner was elected House Majority Leader in 2006 after Tom DeLay was indicted for alleged election law infractions.

Early Life:

Boehner was born on Nov. 17, 1949 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Earl Henry and Mary Anne (Hall) Boehner. Raised Catholic, Boehner was one of 12 children in a family of Kennedy Democrats. His father owned Andy's Café, and Boehner learned the value of hard work from early age. A lifetime resident of Southwest Ohio, he played football for the all-male Archbishop Moeller High School before graduating in 1968. He immediately enlisted in the Navy, but was honorably discharged after eight weeks because of a bad back. He enrolled in Xavier University as a business student, and was the first of his family to go to college.

Early Career:

While attending Xavier, Boehner met his wife, Debbie, and the two were married in 1973. While in college, he began working for Nucite Sales, a plastics and packaging company, and became an executive there after graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1977. He eventually rose through the ranks to become president of the company. Between the time he enrolled in college and the time of his graduation, Boehner made the decision to become a Republican. Five years after his graduation from college, he ran for and won a seat on the Board of Trustees of Union Township, Ohio.

Rise to Political Prominance:

Two years after entering public life, Boehner ran for and won a seat on the Ohio state House of Representatives, where he cultivated his conservative ideology. In 1990, he won a three-way primary race for the U.S. House, beating an incumbent convicted of statutory rape and a former U.S. Rep. by wide margins and sailed to victory over his Democratic opponent in the general election. Two scandals had rocked Congress that year -- the House Banking Scandal and the Congressional Post Office embezzlement scandal. Boehner joined six other freshmen Congressmen in condemning those House members involved in the scandals.

Gang of Seven:

Boehner and the other six lawmakers became known as the "Gang of Seven." Besides loudly condemning Democratic leaders for abusing the House Bank and their role in the Congressional Post Office scandal, Boehner and the others criticized many of the perks House members took, bringing attention to their free haircuts at the Congressional barbershop and free meals at the Senate restaurant, which they exposed as being part of Congress' corrupt culture. Many pundits credited the Gang of Seven for laying the groundwork for the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. Boehner remains the only one of the seven to remain in office.

The 1994 Republican Revolution:

After his success with the Gang of Seven, Gingrich took Boehner under his wing, allowing the junior lawmaker to help draft the Contract with America, which provided an outline of what the GOP would do if voters returned them to power. Meanwhile, Boehner also chaired Gingrich's successful bid for minority leader. After the GOP's unprecedented victory, Boehner enjoyed an elevated standing among his fellow Republican lawmakers, and with encouragement from Gingrich, the newly minted as majority leader, Boehner became chairman of the House Republican Conference, the fourth highest position in House leadership.

Tobacco Lobby Controversy:

In 1995, members of his own party accused him of unethical behavior when he handed out campaign contributions from tobacco industry lobbyists on the House floor. Boehner apologized for the indiscretion, which was not a violation of law, then led the effort to establish a law prohibiting such behavior in the future. Boehner said his disbursement of the checks on the floor of the House was merely for convenience, but that in retrospect his actions showed poor judgment.

Non-Leadership Roles:

In 1998, House Republicans suffered a setback by losing a significant number of seats. Placing blame for the defeats on House leadership, other House members forced Gingrich to step down as majority leader and Boehner lost his position as conference chairman in 1999. After George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, Boehner became House Education and Workforce Committee chairman, as well as the chief architect of the president's No Child Left Behind education initiative. By 2005, Boehner had proven to be one of the most diligent conservative House members, as well as one of its most respected Republicans.

Rise to House Leadership:

In 2005, Majority Leader Tom DeLay was forced to resign from Congress after a grand jury indicted him on criminal charges of money laundering and violating campaign finance law. DeLay's indictment was particularly embarrassing for the Republican Party and was one of the factors that led to the Democrats return to power in the House and Senate in 2006. In response, House Republicans made sure the election for majority leader was transparent, and on Feb. 2, 2006, Boehner was chosen for the position, beating Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona.

Support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP):

In a Jan. 15, 2009 op-ed in USA Today, Boehner expressed regret for voting for the taxpayer-funded TARP, contending that the program enacted in October 2008, which was designed to give the federal government authority to buy up toxic assets and foreclosures, had begun to "go off the rails." Boehner voted for the program, he said, because he believed it was necessary to save the U.S. economy from financial ruin.

Rise to Speaker of the House:
Republican scandals and President Bush's low approval ratings led to big losses for the GOP in 2006. Despite his conservative voting record, Boehner quickly distinguished himself as a leader who would not bow to the religious right on every issue. Although clearly a social conservative, as well as a fiscal conservative, Boehner's policy decisions were motivated by national security and limited government. After the GOP lost control of the House in late 2006, Republican leadership elected Boehner minority leader in 2007. He has embraced his role as leader of the opposition party in the House. Democrats abuses of power, and the heavy-handed methods they used to implement unpopular health care reform laws after President Barack Obama took office in 2009, helped Republicans win back control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Boehner, who had only served as Speaker for 11 months in 2006, was elected to a full term in the new Congress by his colleagues.

Tidbits:
Boehner and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters, Lindsay and Tricia, and live in Wetherington, Ohio.

Among both Republicans and Democrats, Boehner is known as a reformer, and he has taken the role seriously since arriving in Washington 20 years ago.

Boehner an avid golfer, and maintains at least two greens memberships in his home district.

Besides his annual beach-themed Beltway party, Boehner is most famous on Capitol Hill for his perpetual tan. During a campaign speech in 2008, Democratic candidate Barack Obama joked about Boehner's George-Hamilton-style tan, calling him a "person of color." The comment raised a few eyebrows from some in the press, but most found it humorous -- including Boehner.

"As I tell my friends," he told CNN's "State of the Union," "'You only tease the ones you love.'"

Boehner says his tan is the result of extensive time outdoors.

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