By Russell Berman - 03/28/14 06:00 AM EDT
The barkeeper’s son has a fondness for profanity, whether he’s on the House floor or a stone’s throw from the Oval Office, snapping at colleagues in private or voicing outrage on TV.
In public, Boehner’s obscenities tend to be in the PG-13 vein, rather than rated R.
Yet while cursing plays into Boehner’s everyman image, aides privately say his sharp tongue often works to his advantage: Letting slip the occasional “hell” or “damn” grabs headlines and makes for lively TV without running the risk of offending sensibilities or of the Speaker being accused of diminishing the third-highest elected office in the country.
Boehner’s most recent outburst came on Wednesday, in response to the Obama administration’s decision to extend the deadline for some people to enroll in the new health insurance exchanges.
“What the hell is this, a joke?” the Speaker exclaimed — a comment that came not in response to a question but as part of his prepared, written remarks.
“Boehner talks like regular people talk. Occasionally, that includes four-letter words,” spokesman Michael Steel said in response to a query about the Speaker’s swearing.
Here, then, are some of the Speaker’s more memorable uses of profanity.
1) “Hell no, you can’t!”
The Speaker likes to reserve his strongest language for the biggest bills, and perhaps his most famous and fiery floor speech came in opposition to the Affordable Care Act shortly before its passage on a party-line vote in March 2010. Then the House minority leader, Boehner chastised Democrats for passing the measure over public opposition and without sufficient open debate.
“Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals, and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?” Boehner asked, his voice rising to a shout. “Hell no, you can’t!
After repeating the phrase a moment later, Boehner was admonished by the Democrat in Speaker’s chair, then-Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.). “Both sides would do well to remember the dignity of the House,” Obey told him and members responding to his speech.
2) Cap-and-trade bill a “pile of s--t”
Boehner had harsher words for the cap-and-trade climate bill that Democrats passed over GOP opposition in 2009. After reading parts of the measure aloud on the House floor before the vote, Boehner told The Hill, “Hey, people deserve to know what’s in this pile of s--t.”
3) “Crap sandwich”
Boehner demonstrated a similar disregard for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package Congress approved amid the financial crisis in the fall of 2008.
He referred to the bill as a “crap sandwich” during a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, but unlike the healthcare and climate bills, Boehner criticized the measure, even as he pushed his colleagues to vote for it out of economic necessity.
4) “Go F--- Yourself’
During a tense time as Speaker, Boehner lashed out at Reid while the two men were waiting to meet with President Obama about the “fiscal cliff” in late 2012.
“Go f--- yourself,” Boehner told Reid, according to Politico.
The Senate leader had taken to accusing the Speaker of running “a dictatorship” in the House by refusing to bring up legislation extending tax cuts for the middle class. Boehner never uttered the words in public, but his staff never denied the exchange, either.
5) Speaker: Rep. Steve King an “asshole”
The Speaker is a bipartisan offender when it comes to cussing about his colleagues.
As recounted in an essay for Texas Monthly by freshman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), Boehner privately ripped fellow GOP Rep. Steve King (Iowa) in a conversation on the House floor, after King publicly compared young illegal immigrants to drug mules. “What an asshole,” Boehner told Castro, referring to King.
6) “Quit being an asshole,” Boehner tells LaTourette
Friends and foes alike find themselves on the wrong side of a Boehner lashing.
When then-Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a longtime friend and one of the Speaker’s closest political allies, began publicly complaining about the leadership’s proposal for a highway bill in 2012, Boehner took him aside and delivered a blunt message: “Quit being an asshole,” he told him, LaTourette recalled, and go talk to the chairman of the Transportation Committee. LaTourette began engaging on the legislation, but it still failed to pass the House.
7) Speaker tells the Senate to “get off their ass”
Few things make Boehner as animated as the snail’s pace of the Democratic-led Senate. The Speaker prods Reid in public on a weekly basis, and when Congress was trying to stave off sequestration spending cuts in early 2013, Boehner told reporters the House had already done its job.
“We have moved a bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something,” he said during a press conference.
8) Boehner tells Republicans, “Get your ass in line”
With the nation on the brink of default in July 2011, Boehner took his frustration out on his own resistant members. In a closed-door meeting at the Capitol, the Speaker told House Republicans to “get your ass in line” and support the leadership’s proposal to raise the debt limit.
Ultimately, the House was forced to accept the compromise Budget Control Act negotiated with the Senate and the White House.