It’s the ‘people’s House,’ but which ‘people’?

IT’S THE ‘PEOPLE’S HOUSE,’ BUT WHICH ‘PEOPLE’?…. Ohio Republican John Boehner formally took the gavel this afternoon, becoming the 61st Speaker of the House.

In his remarks — which were, thankfully, far shorter than the half-hour speech Newt Gingrich delivered upon becoming Speaker in ’95 — Boehner returned to one phrase in particular more than once.

“The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. […]

“To my friends in the minority, I offer a commitment. Openness – once a tradition of this institution, but increasingly scarce in recent decades, will be the new standard…. You will not have the right to willfully disrupt the proceedings of the People’s House. But you will always have the right to a robust debate in open process that allows you to represent your constituents — to make your case, offer alternatives, and be heard.

“I wish you all the very best. Welcome to the people’s House. Welcome to the 112th Congress.”

It’s a fine phrase, and an admirable sentiment. The question, though, is which “people” the new Speaker is referring to.

[W]hile the GOP campaigned on a promise to govern on behalf of the American people, the reality is that not only did a top lobbyist help write the Party’s campaign pledge, but its agenda will also be heavily influenced by big corporate interests — and it starts at the top. Long before Republicans won control of the House last November, Boehner invited “senior Republican lobbyists and top officials from several large trade groups” to his office to discuss “their suggestions for a new GOP agenda.” As the New York Times reported last September, “that sort of alliance” with top corporate lobbyists “is business as usual” for Boehner, who “maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.” And the big business lobbyist tentacles stretch beyond Boehner throughout the power centers of his Party, representing a new corporate takeover of the House. […]

Just after the GOP won control of the House in last November’s midterms, the Center for Public integrity released a reportexamining the likely incoming chairmen of various House committees and found that they “ have deep ties to the business community or the industries they will soon oversee.” […]

The Washington Post reported last month that many of the incoming GOP members of Congress, several of whom had “won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement,” have “hired registered lobbyists as senior aides.”

The new Speaker noted in his remarks today of the new GOP majority, “Our aim will be to give government back to the people.” If only he’d been a little more specific.