House Speaker Boehner Says 'It's Time to Act' on Federal Deficit

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

As President Obama requests a short-term delay to automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect March 1, House Speaker John Boehner expressed a growing frustration today over Washington's inability to tackle the federal deficit.

"At some point Washington has to deal with its spending problem," Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference at the Capitol. "Now, I've watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years that I've been here. I've had enough of it! It's time to act."

While Boehner applauded the Republicans "every effort" to rein in spending, he said that with GOP control over only one arm of the power structure in the nation's capital, Republicans were in a minority in Washington.

"Republicans may not be the majority party here in Washington, but the American people would agree with us on this, and we're going to continue to stand with the American people," he said.

Boehner said he preferred to offset the sequester - the package of federal spending cuts set to kick in in three weeks - with spending cuts and reforms "that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years." The House voted twice during the 112 th Congress to replace the sequester, but the Senate did not take up either bill, and those attempts expired at the end of the session.

"The president and Senate Democrats have done almost nothing to address our long-term debt problems," Boehner said. "Yesterday the president warned of grave economic consequences if the sequester were to go into effect, but he didn't announce any specific plans for how he would address it.

"Washington desperately needs some adult leadership," Boehner continued. "We believe there's a better way to lower the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes."

The House voted 253-167 today to pass the Require a PLAN Act, which mandates that if the president does not submit a budget to Congress that balances within a 10-year budget window, he is required to provide a supplemental budget that eventually balances at some day in the future. Still, the bill faces a slow death in the Senate and is not likely to become law.

Although some House Republicans have embraced the across-the-board spending cuts, Congress is nearly certain to find a way to avert them.

"Let me make it clear. I don't like the sequester," Boehner said. "It's taking a meat axe to our government, a meat axe to many programs, and it will weaken our national defense."

Only eight days of House legislative business remain until the cuts - delayed for two months as part of the fiscal cliff deal - take effect March 1. The president is expected to release his budget blueprint next week after his State of the Union address on Feb. 12.

"We know what the menu of options are, cuts and reforms that we can put in place to put us on a sound fiscal path, help investors and businesspeople in America understand where it is the government's going, being more responsible about our debt," Boehner said. "Those cuts and reforms ought to be put in place."