Speaker John Boehner said Monday that he understood the “frustrations” driving the Occupy Wall Street movement – but urged protesters to be peaceful to prevent demonstrations from blowing out of control.
“I understand people’s frustrations,” Boehner said during an appearance at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. “The economy is not producing jobs like they want and there’s lot of erosion of confidence in our government and frankly, under the First Amendment, people have the right to speak out … but that doesn’t mean they have the permission to violate the law.”
“Beyond that, I lived through the riots of the Vietnam War … and you can see how some of those activities got out of control. A lot of people lived through the race riots of 1968 that was clearly out of control, and I’m hopeful that these demonstrations will continue to be peaceful.”
Earlier this month, remarks on the movement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that the protesters were “mobs” caused an uproar and led the Virginia Republican to ultimately back away from his comments.
The speaker’s comments came during a question-and-answer session following a speech at the school, in which Boehner repeatedly called on a gridlocked Washington to find “common ground” on jobs and the economy.
The public “expects us to seek common ground and to act on it,” Boehner said. “So common ground doesn’t mean compromising on your principles. Common ground is finding ways where your agenda overlaps … without violating your principles.”
Boehner also reiterated his concerns about the recent series of executive orders from President Barack Obama that’s intended to jolt action on housing, veterans services, and education. The speaker said Congress is looking at the actions to ensure Obama is not overstepping constitutional bounds.
“It’s the president who taught constitutional law if that matters, so he understands that [the Constitution] gives Congress to the power of the purse,” Boehner said.
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