Boehner Not Budging on Sequester Until Senate Acts
House Speaker John Boehner dug in his heels today, insisting that the House of Representatives will not move on legislation to replace the sequester until the Senate passes a plan to offset the automatic cuts scheduled to hit at the end of the month.
"We've played our cards, we've laid out our hand, passed those bills and went to the Senate and nothing happened. It's time for the Senate to do its job," Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference this morning. "It's incumbent upon the president and Senate Democrats to show us their plan to stop the sequester from going into effect."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Monday that he will meet with Boehner this week to discuss the standoff. Senate Democrats are expected to roll out their plan Thursday to offset the cuts with a mix of new tax revenue, targeted defense cuts and trims to agriculture subsidies.
While lawmakers have struggled to strike an amicable agreement to replace the sequester, Republicans have worked to connect the idea for the arbitrary cuts to the president, dubbing it "Obamaquester," and pointing at Bob Woodward's book, "The Price of Politics," which reported that the idea came from the White House during budget negotiations to increase the debt limit in 2011.
"We're weeks away from the president's sequester and the president laid out no plan to eliminate the sequester and the harmful cuts that will come as a result of it," Boehner said today, once again pinning ownership on President Obama. "Republicans have twice passed bills to replace the sequester."
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer rejected the notion that the sequester was the president's idea, pointing to a budget proposal drawn up by the Republican Study Committee as the inspiration for the sequester.
"That is dead flat wrong. It is the policy included in their Cut, Cap and Balance bill as a fallback if we don't succeed," Hoyer, D-Md., said during a briefing Monday. "It is not our policy."
House Republicans passed legislation in the 112 th Congress twice to offset the across-the-board cuts, but after the Senate refused to consider either measure, those efforts expired at the end of the last session of Congress. Now, with a slightly different balance of power after the November election, Congress is essentially starting from scratch.
Today, former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the House Budget chairman, predicted that the sequester will take effect at the end of the month, placing the blame on the Senate for not passing a budget blueprint in almost four years.
"Because the Senate has not acted, because the president has not put a proposal yet on the table, that is why I think the sequester will probably occur," Ryan, R-Wis., said on CBS' "This Morning."
"We have acted in the House. The Senate has not. The president has not, and therefore, that is why I think it's going to happen."
Even though Boehner insists he hopes Congress will avert the cuts as they stand, he revealed he has sent a letter directing lawmakers and officers of the Capitol to prepare a contingency plan in case Congress fails to act.
"We're prepared to deal with it and I would hope that it wouldn't happen. I've made that perfectly clear," Boehner said. "The sequester is bad policy. It's taking a meat-ax approach to cutting government spending. That's why the president ought to be forthcoming with a plan to replace his own sequester."
The House of Representatives is in session just six more days before the cuts hit March 1. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to Boehner Monday requesting that he cancel a legislative break scheduled for next week and keep lawmakers in Washington until the showdown is resolved.
"There is too much at stake for the House to go into recess for nine days," Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote. "Congress must do what's right for the American people, not what's wrong for the economy. We must stay in session until our work is complete."