House Speaker John Boehner today warned that the U.S. economy will get “a hell of a lot worse” if Congress fails to address the country’s long-term debt woes, but he acknowledged that Republicans and Democrats must “find more common ground if we’re going to be successful.”
“I’m never going to give up on making the changes necessary to get our deficit and our debt under control because if we don’t the future for our kids and grandkids is going to be pretty bleak,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters today in Washington. “If you look at what happened with the supercommittee, it’s not a whole lot different than what happened in the conversations between President Obama and myself and Senator Reid and Senator McConnell and myself later in the summer. There’s got to be a balance to this if it’s going to happen, [but] both of our views of what is balanced still have room between us.”
Although the supercommittee failed to come up a deal to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, he praised the bipartisan panel for a “great job” and pointed out that the sequestration mechanism will still compel Congress to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit by 2013. While the president has threatened to veto any legislation that attempts to tinker with the automatic cuts, Boehner seemed open to changes.
“It’s unfortunate they weren’t able to come to an agreement, but understand this: there is going to be $1.2 trillion of further cuts to meet our commitment and I think having the sequester in place to ensure that we’re going to get our spending problem under control is a good thing,” he said. “I would prefer, and I think all of our members would prefer, that we do this in a more responsible way.”
Boehner once again called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to move a host of House-passed measures which the speaker said “would help create a better environment for job creation.”
“American families and small businesses continue to struggle in this difficult economy,” he said. “They’re good solid pieces of legislation all passed with bipartisan support and they deserve the consideration of the United States Senate.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, said that “jobs are job No. 1″ for House Republicans and he offered Reid some direct advice for his Christmas shopping list, echoing Boehner’s call for the Senate to take up the bank of House-passed jobs measures.
“Last week our fellow countrymen paused to give thanks. Unfortunately in the Obama economy millions could not give thanks for being employed,” Hensarling, R-Texas, said. “We have ended the Thanksgiving holiday. Christmas is around the corner. Senator Reid, a great Christmas gift you could give to the American people is to allow these jobs bills to be passed.”
With a full slate of legislative deadlines approaching before the end of the year, Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged members of Congress to “set aside those areas that have provided the most consternation and have eluded any kind of resolution” on a grand bargain and instead “try and find ways that we can agree.”
“Any kind of grand deal that we’ve been after has eluded us so let’s try and work incrementally towards a conclusion this session that can benefit all Americans,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “We Republicans do care about people that are out of work, we don’t want to raise taxes on anybody. We want to provide the help to the physicians and the providers in the healthcare arena in this country and we want to make sure this country has a sound national defense policy.”
One of the remaining items on the House’s to-do list is an extension of the payroll tax cut. Congressional Republicans say they favor an extension, but disagree with Democrats, who want to pay for it with a surtax on millionaires.
“We’ve made clear all fall that we’re interested in working with the president to find common ground on his jobs plan, and there are a number of pieces in his jobs plan and our jobs plan that have in fact been passed by both Houses and signed into law, and we’re going to continue to seek common ground on this issue,” Boehner said. “There’s no debate, though, about whether these extensions ought to be paid for. The president’s called for them to be paid for, Democrats here have called for them to be paid for, and so if in fact we can find common ground on these extensions, I think you can take to the bank the fact that they will be paid for.”