Boehner's three brothers lost jobs during recession

Boehner, who has 11 siblings, said he’s not sure whether the three brothers remain unemployed.

“I’ve got real empathy for those who are unemployed, as most of you know I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters. I know that three of my brothers lost their jobs, I’m not sure whether they’ve found jobs, yet, so I’ve got a lot of empathy for those caught in this economic downturn,” Boehner said.

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The House Republican leader opened up about his connection to the unemployed in a wide-ranging discussion with reporters on Wednesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Boehner, who opposed extending unemployment benefits, explained he was not among the conservatives who believe that jobless benefits make individuals lazy.

But he agrees with other Republicans that the cost of extending unemployment benefits should be offset with other spending cuts.

Senate Democrats agreed to move to a final vote on an extension of unemployment benefits on Tuesday that had been stuck in the chamber for weeks. A final vote could come as early as Wednesday. The House will then vote on the measure.

If Republicans win control of the House in November, which Boehner said is “doable,” Boehner stands to become the next Speaker of the House.

The Ohio-lawmaker pledged to work on breaking down the “scar tissue” of partisanship that has grown over the last several years in the nation’s capital.

Even though Republicans have been dubbed the “party of no” during the past 18 months for their overwhelming opposition to most Democratic initiatives, Boehner pledged to reach out to Democrats if his party wins back the House.

“If Ted Kennedy and I can find a lot of common ground on the several dozen bills that we moved together, there isn’t any reason why other members can’t find common ground in order to move the ball down the field,” Boehner said.

The comments referred to his time as chairman of the then-Education and Workforce Committee, when he worked with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) on the No Child Left Behind education overhaul.

Boehner was firm however that if Republicans do retake control of the House, he would do everything in his power to prevent unspent money from the $787 billion economic stimulus bill from being spent.