While the majority of congressional Republicans oppose most of the policies President Obama outlined during his State of the Union address Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner deflected attention away from Republican resistance, challenging Senate Democrats to prove there is support for the president’s proposals.
“The president laid out his agenda and it’s one I largely disagreed with,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “It was largely more of the same: more tax hikes, more stimulus spending and the president likes to attack Congress. But if he’s serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must start with a part of this Congress that his party controls, the United States Senate.”
Boehner questioned whether there is sufficient support in the Senate for the president’s proposals for a national cap-and-trade energy tax, more stimulus spending or new tax increases.
“What can he get passed in the United States Senate?” Boehner asked. “This isn’t the agenda that many Americans are looking for, and I think many in the president’s own party won’t support those ideas.”
Senate Democrats are expected later today to introduce their plan to offset the looming sequester cuts for the rest of the year. That proposal is expected to replace the across-the-board cuts with a concoction of alternative savings derived from agriculture subsidies and defense spending, in addition to new tax increases.
Boehner met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning in the Capitol, but he didn’t reveal much of the discussion.
“When the Senate passes a plan, we’ll be happy to take a look at it,” Boehner said. “Until they pass a plan, there’s no reason for me to comment on what they’re going to do or not do.”
Boehner once again emphasized that Republicans passed legislation to replace the sequester on two occasions in the 112th Congress, and that he personally prefers to avert the ominous cuts that will remain in place until lawmakers approve a package of savings that addresses the growing national deficit.
“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years,” Boehner said. “Period.”
While the president called on Congress to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure, Boehner said he is “committed to working to find a funding source so we can begin to repair America’s aging infrastructure,” but leaders are struggling to identify a way to pay for it.
“The problems we have are chiefly one of resources, and it’s still trying to find a funding source to repair the nation’s infrastructure is still a big goal of mine,” he said. “The president talked about infrastructure but he didn’t talk about how to pay for it, and it’s easy to go out there and be Santa Clause and talk about all of the things you want to give away but at some point somebody’s got to pay the bill.”
Boehner also said he doubted Obama’s ability to take executive action on climate control, an issue the president highlighted during his address Tuesday night.
“I don’t know what actions the president thinks he can take,” Boehner said. “I don’t think he has the ability to impose a national energy tax on Americans without the authority of Congress. So he may attempt to do this, but I’m not sure how much he can really do.”
Asked whether the House will wait for the Senate to act on immigration overhaul before the House considers legislation, Boehner said no decision has been made and there are still “a lot of issues that we have to deal with” that are preventing negotiators from striking an agreement.
“I’ve done everything I can to try to encourage those bipartisan conversations to continue,” he said. “Our border is not secure [and] the ability of our government to enforce the law has its share of problems as well.
“I want my colleagues to continue to work together to see if they can’t come to a solution that’s acceptable here in the House,” he added.