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An Abrupt Interruption To Chinese State Visit: Boehner's Resignation


President Obama was caught by surprise today when House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced he's resigning next month. Obama and Boehner have rarely seen eye to eye outside of a golf course where they've paired up exactly once. The president congratulated Boehner for orchestrating this week's historic visit by Pope Francis to the Capitol. And Obama said he would like the pope's call for more cooperation to set the political tone for Boehner's successor. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama told reporters he telephoned Boehner this morning as soon as he heard the speaker was stepping down. He described the Republican speaker as a good man who cares about his constituents and America.


BARACK OBAMA: We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically, we're at different ends of the spectrum. But I will tell you. He has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me. He has kept his word when he made a commitment.

HORSLEY: Obama also described Boehner as a politician who understands the value of working across party lines even if that made him a target for some of his more conservative colleagues in the House.


OBAMA: When you have a democracy, compromise is necessary, and I think Speaker Boehner sometimes had difficulty persuading members of his caucus that.

HORSLEY: Boehner's resignation could pave the way for passage of a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown next week, but Obama declined to speculate what happens after that.


HORSLEY: News of Boehner's departure came as Obama was hosting a 10-state visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping. One of the biggest points of friction between the two leaders is cybersecurity. The administration says it's one thing for governments to spy on each other and quite another when China spies on U.S. companies not for intelligence but for profit.


OBAMA: I raised once again our very serious concerns about growing cyber-threats to American companies and American citizens. I indicated that it has to stop.

HORSLEY: The two countries agreed to cooperate on the investigation of cyber crimes. President Xi promised, through an interpreter, the Chinese government will not use its cyber-sleuthing capacity to steal American company's intellectual property.


XI JINPING: (Through interpreter) China strongly opposes and combats the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks.

HORSLEY: Obama welcomed the Chinese leader's commitment but added a note of skepticism as he said the U.S. will be watching.


OBAMA: The question now is, are words followed by actions?

HORSLEY: Obama notes the U.S. has the authority to impose economic sanctions against cyber hackers. As the sound of distant protesters wafted over the Rose Garden, Obama said he'd had a frank exchange with Xi over China's human rights record, its provocative moves in the South China Sea and the growing pressure on China to play a grown-up role in the global economy.


OBAMA: We can't treat China as if it's still a very poor developing country as it might've been 50 years ago. It is now a powerhouse, and that means it's got responsibilities.

HORSLEY: Xi was asked by a Chinese reporter if his country's growth poses a challenge to the United States. The Chinese president fumbled with his papers looking for a scripted answer then read it aloud, saying the Cold War is over. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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