After a weekend absorbing the reality that sequestration has begun to slash spending, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team emerged from a conference meeting this morning emboldened and ardent for more spending cuts.
"Spending is the problem here in Washington," Boehner, R-Ohio, said as a banner covering the back wall mirrored the speaker's latest axiom. "Our goal is to cut spending, not to shut the government down."
"Spending is the problem," repeated Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Republican Conference. "We continue to urge the Democrats, who do run this town, to make the responsible spending cuts."
"Spending is a problem," echoed Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas. "Every hard-working American family has had to cut 2 percent out of their budget when they saw their taxes go up at the beginning of the year. It's time for Washington to do the same."
Next week, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is expected to introduce his latest budget blueprint, which aims to balance the annual budget deficit within the next decade. The bill is expected to have a floor vote the week of March 18-21.
As Ryan sets out to balance the budget in just 10 years, the GOP's budget will look substantially different than previous versions. A big help is the $1.2 trillion in sequestration that Ryan's budget is expected to assume since the cuts are current law.
House Budget Republicans are also reportedly considering changing the threshold of those not impacted by changes to the Medicare eligibility age from anyone currently aged 55 and over people aged 56 and below. Boehner declined to reveal his opinion of the proposal.
"Chairman Ryan and the Budget Committee members are working with all of our members to try to lay the groundwork for successful passage of our budget," Boehner said. "They're working through this and I'm sure that we'll be able to come to some agreement."
A spokesman for the former Republican vice presidential nominee would not comment directly on how the threshold age to changes would be set for Ryan's next budget. Without revealing details, the aide said Ryan's budget will "ensure no changes for those in or near retirement."
"Chairman Ryan has made clear that the House Budget Committee will advance a responsible, balanced budget." Kevin Seifert, press secretary at the House Budget committee, said. "With respect to Medicare, Chairman Ryan will again put forward a real solution to protect and strengthen Medicare for current seniors and future generations. His reforms ensure no changes for those in or near retirement, a sharp contrast to the real harm inflicted on seniors by the president's health-care law."
But rather than get entangled in a debate over entitlement reform, Republicans have actively sought to deflect the political pressure to Senate Democrats to pass their own budget resolution.
"We've done a budget each of the last two years that we've been back in the majority," Boehner said. "Hopefully the Senate will keep their word and do a budget for the first time in four years."
Boehner also criticized President Obama for stalling on a decision to begin construction on the Keystone XL pipeline now that the State Department has issued a report indicating the proposed route would not have a significant impact on climate change.
"The president and the president alone stands between these tens of thousands of American jobs and more North American oil for our refineries, and it's time for him to say yes," Boehner said. "After four years of needless delays, it's time for the president to stand up for middle-class jobs and, you know, we'll get that by getting the Keystone pipeline under construction."
One freshman Republican, Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, warned that the growing national debt leaves a financial burden on younger generations, and it's the duty of Congress to "responsibly manage" spending.
"I ran for Congress not because I was having a mid-life crisis. I left the private sector because I saw a looming financial crisis that was coming to this country," Daines said. "It's unsustainable."