WASHINGTON - Despite President Obama's call for Congress to prioritize issues like immigration reform and address climate change during his inaugural address Monday, House Speaker John Boehner said that the House of Representatives will instead continue its focus on fiscal responsibility, including a plan to balance the budget over the next decade.
"There are a lot of priorities for the Congress [and] a lot of priorities for the president, but right now the biggest issue is the debt that's crushing the future for our kids and our grandkids," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Taxpayers understand that you can't keep spending money that you don't have, so we're going to continue to focus, especially here over this next 90-, 120-day period, on bringing some fiscal responsibility to Washington."
Boehner, who conducted his first news conference since Dec. 21 this evening, said the House will move forward on its No Budget No Pay act, which directs both chambers of Congress to adopt a budget resolution for FY 2014 by April 15, 2013. If either body fails to pass a budget, members of that body would have their paychecks put into an escrow account starting on April 16 until that body adopts a budget. But, because of the 27 th Amendment, any pay that is withheld would eventually be released at the end of the current Congress, even if a budget doesn't ever pass.
"Over the last four years, House Republicans have offered plans, our budget plans. We've done our budgets but it's been nearly four years since the Senate has done a budget," he said. "Most Americans believe you don't do your job you shouldn't get paid. That's the basis for No Budget, No Pay. It's time for the Senate to act."
The bill, H.R. 325, also temporarily suspends the statutory debt limit until May 18, granting the Treasury Department the additional borrowing authority to meet obligations that require payment over the next three months.
Facing trillion dollar annual budget deficits, Boehner told the House Republican Conference this afternoon that the GOP will advance a budget that becomes balanced over the next 10 years.
"It's time for us to come to a plan that will in fact balance the budget over the next 10 years," he added. "It's our commitment to the American people and we hope the Senate will do their budget as they should have done over the last four years."
Still, the country's growing $16 trillion federal deficit would not balance by then, and Boehner stressed that Republicans are not open to new tax revenue as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the deficit.
"We are not going to raise taxes on the American people," Boehner insisted. "Nobody on our side is interested in raising taxes on the American people. It's time to deal with the serious problem that we have, which is spending."
That is sure to be a point of contention among Democrats. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer rejected the GOP's doggedness that new revenue would not be part of a package to reduce the deficit.
"We absolutely reject that. The president absolutely rejects it, I reject it, period," Hoyer, D-Md., said during a pen and pad briefing with reporters Tuesday. "Going forward, revenues are going to still need to be part of the solution, as are cuts and restraints and reduction of growth. All are going to have to be part of it."
The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a three-month increase to the debt limit, a move intended to sync up the next slate of fiscal deadlines facing Congress and provide lawmakers with more time to work out a so-called "Big Deal" on deficit reduction.
As he left the news conference, Boehner ignored a question about whether he believes the measure will pass. Still, the president has promised not to veto it and many congressional Democrats appear open to supporting it.
"This bill is a game bill. It's not a substantive response to a serious problem," Hoyer said. "Having said that, I've made it very clear that defaulting is not an option. All the Republicans leaders believe it's not an option. And so I think, in that context, I'll have to look at it."