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Boehner the budget hawk shifts his course

But it just so happens that a GE plant that develops the second engine employs 7,000 people in Evendale, Ohio, near Boehner's district. Rather than take a so-be-it attitude toward jobs his constituents may hold, he's backing an earmark-like provision in the spending legislation to keep funding the unneeded GE engine.

"I believe that over the next 10 years this will save the government money," Boehner reasoned at his news conference.

This puts Boehner at odds with some members of his caucus, who, in a news conference half an hour after Boehner's, dismissed the speaker's wishful notion that the locally built engine would save money.

"That kind of speculation is not something the American people have patience for," said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). Freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) correctly judged that "Speaker Boehner has a constituency that he's representing as well as being the leader of the House."

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) reminded GOP leaders that cutting the wasteful engine is "the right thing to do, and I think the American people sent that message loud and clear."

Several of those at the later news conference were merely protecting jobs in their own districts. But Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), whose constituents don't make either engine, used Boehner's logic against the speaker. "The number one thing that we can do for jobs in this country is get our spending under control," Griffin said.

Over many years, that may be true. But in the short term, deep cuts will mean catastrophic job losses. Whether the unemployed are in Evendale, Ohio, or elsewhere in America, "so be it" won't cut it.

E-mail the writer at danamilbank@ or follow him on Twitter @milbank.

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