Boehner: It's up to Democrats to prevent budget cuts
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday that it's unlikely the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate will prevent a wave of automatic spending cuts from beginning to strike the economy in two weeks. Yet he sounded hopeful about avoiding a partial shutdown of the government when a temporary spending bill expires next month.
Cloistered in his Capitol office overlooking the National Mall, Boehner said he is skeptical of many of President Obama's plans, laid out the night before in the annual State of the Union address.
Boehner voiced doubts about Obama's proposal for taxpayer-funded help for preschool education for all 4-year-olds, and he would not commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, though doing so would be “somewhat helpful” to members of his party as they seek to regain support among Hispanics. “There's no magic potion that's going to solve our party's woes with Hispanics,” he said.
Boehner refused to swing behind any of Obama's gun control proposals and said he opposed the president's plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.
The Ohio Republican said he gets along well with Obama but admits their relationship has not generated much in the way of results, pointing to two failed rounds of budget talks in 2011 and at the end of last year. Boehner is frustrated that spending cuts Obama signaled he would agree to in 2011 have been taken off the table since the election.
“It hasn't been real productive the last two years, and frankly every time I've gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, it's my rear end that got burnt,” Boehner said. “It's just probably not the best way for our government to operate.”
Obama stumped in support of his minimum wage plan, his calls for a manufacturing revival and his other State of the Union proposals in a trip to Asheville, N.C., where he said: “If you work full-time, you shouldn't be in poverty.”
He will take his case to Georgia on Thursday and his hometown of Chicago on Friday, all part of his effort to build popular support for an agenda facing stiff resistance back in Washington.
“It's not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing,” Obama said of his initiatives. “Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says if you work hard, if you meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead.”
The immediate agenda, though, is dominated by $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts — called a sequester in Washington-speak — set to slam the Pentagon and domestic programs over the coming seven months. Boehner said he has no plans to resurrect legislation passed by Republicans last year to block this year's sequester.
The speaker said that until Obama puts forward a plan to avoid the sequester and Senate Democrats pass it, “we're going to be stuck with it. It's going to be a little bleak around here when this actually happens and people actually have to make decisions.”
Boehner noted that while plenty of GOP Defense hawks are anxious about the automatic reductions, Democrats concerned with cuts to domestic programs have a lot on the line, too.
And he sounded glum about prospects that the two sides will come together in the spring on a separate, long-term budget blueprint to address the government's fiscal problems.
“It's hard to imagine that you could reconcile (the separate budgets) the House and Senate pass,” Boehner said. “But at some point, in some manner, it almost has to happen if we're going to deal with our long-term spending problem.”
In March, the House and Senate will take up competing long-term budgets. In a break with past years, House Republicans promise to balance the budget within a decade — without additional tax increases beyond the $600 billion-plus in tax hikes on wealthier earners won by Obama as part of a deal to keep the rest of the Bush-era tax cuts.
Boehner said an impasse with Senate Democrats, who insist their rival budget plan will raise taxes and contain softer budget cuts, is probably inevitable.
Also looming is the need to pass legislation financing the government through the budget year ending Sept. 30. Here, at least, Boehner saw some promise, predicting a resolution will pass soon to head off a partial shutdown.
Washington's most powerful Republican was also noncommittal on two of Obama's top second-term initiatives: overhauling the nation's immigration laws and enacting stricter gun control measures.
On immigration, Boehner said he was “encouraged” by bipartisan efforts to reform the nation's fractured laws, but he would not say whether he would support a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. Nor would he commit to a pathway to citizenship for the “dreamers” — young people brought to the United States illegally.
“I'm not getting myself locked into a corner on what I'm for or what I'm against,” the speaker said.
On gun control, Boehner said he would consider measures passed by the Democratic-led Senate, but he would not pledge to hold votes on any of Obama's core principles, including universal background checks for all gun purchasers. The expanded background checks are broadly supported by the public.
While not outright opposing background checks or Obama's other calls for limiting assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the speaker said he preferred to focus on the link between mass shootings and mental health issues.
Despite the sometimes frustrating nature of the job, Boehner said he'll run for speaker again in two years, assuming Republicans keep control of the House.
“Absolutely. I've got a big job to do, and I intend to get it done.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Thousands attend B.B. King viewing
- Houthis capture at least 4 U.S. citizens
- Nivolumab shines in fighting cancerous lung tumors in immunotherapy regimen
- Texas waters yield 4 bodies as death toll climbs; rainfall records fall across state
- Mind was ‘falling apart,’ Colorado theater killing suspect says
- FBI says lab errors extend to 1999
- Legal battle over Brazilian emerald likely at end
- Cuba removed from U.S. terrorism list
- H3N2 dog flu not cause for panic, experts say
- Ginsburg flung open doors for women
- Anthrax shipments underreported