LOUISVILLE, Ky. — House Speaker John Boehner called for Congress to find "common ground" on jobs and the economy despite ideological differences that have tied the institution in knots.
Boehner, speaking Monday during a visit to the University of Louisville, said finding areas of agreement doesn't mean compromising principles. Instead, Boehner said, doing so means finding places where the agendas of both parties overlap and having Congress act on those areas.
Boehner's speech comes as congressional Republicans have wrangled with President Barack Obama over how to jump-start job growth in a sluggish economy.
"My message today is simple: Faith in government has never been high, but it doesn't have to be this low," Boehner said.
Boehner shared the stage with his fellow congressional Republican leader, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell welcomed Boehner to his alma mater as part of the McConnell Center's fall lecture series.
Boehner was first elected to the House in 1990 from Ohio's 8th Congressional District.
Boehner cited several areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats, including recently passed free trade pacts. He also called for Congress to agree to lift or modify regulations on pesticide use, the cement industry and the power of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of the GOP.
"Common ground — without compromising on principle — is the recipe that produced some of the greatest policy milestones in recent memory," Boehner said, citing the 1996 welfare reform bill.
While introducing Boehner, McConnell said government needs get control of its finances.
"Spending and borrowing, which has exploded in recent years, is catching up with us," McConnell said.
Boehner said the bipartisan debt commission, known as the "Supercommittee," needs to find areas of agreement, including on entitlement programs such as Medicare. Without changes, entitlement programs will not be around long term, Boehner said.
"You know it, I know it, President Obama knows it," Boehner said.
Boehner's speech comes amid continued feuding pitting Obama and Congressional Republicans over the right course to jump start job growth.
Congressional Republicans have blocked Obama's $447 billion jobs plan that combines Social Security payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses along with other tax relief and new spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure.
The plan has been stymied by lawmakers opposed to stimulus-style spending and a tax increase on the very wealthy. The plan would be paid for with a surcharge on income exceeding $1 million.
Obama and his Congressional allies have vowed to press ahead with separate votes on pieces on the jobs measure. One pared-back measure designed to boost hiring of teachers and first responders was scuttled recently by Republicans and a handful of Democrats.
Obama has been campaigning for his jobs bill, making strategic s tops in key battleground states and in the backyards of key Republican leaders.
Obama has promoted the plan as an insurance policy against a double-dip recession. The debate comes amid an anemic economic recovery and slower than hoped job growth.
Boehner said the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has prompted protests and arrests around the country, is understandable given the slow economic and job growth.
"Under the First Amendment, people have the right to speak out and protest," Boehner said. "But, they don't have a right to violate the law."
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