House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday blasted President Obama for touring around the country "scaring people, creating havoc" instead of working on a replacement for the sequester.
"That's supposed to be leadership?" Cantor asked on the House floor. "The president says to Americans that their food is going to go un-inspected, and that our borders will be less patrolled and unsafe.
"His cabinet secretaries are holding press conferences and conducting TV interviews, making false claims about teacher layoffs."
"Was the food not inspected? Because that's what the claim is. That somehow if we were to reduce spending at all we couldn't have food inspectors," he said. "Did we have any border patrol agents in 2009? Of course we did."
Cantor made these comments during his weekly colloquy with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). They mirrored remarks from other Republicans who say Obama is purposefully making noticeable cuts to the federal government rather than looking for ways to cut waste, in order to sway public opinion in favor of delaying the cuts or replacing them with tax hikes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday accused Obama of deliberately ratcheting up the pain from the sequester.
“The president is ready to make it bite as hard as possible — all to send a simple message to the public: ‘You want to control Washington spending, America? Fine, let me show you much I can make it hurt,’ ” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
“Instead of directing his Cabinet secretaries to trim waste in their departments, he’s going to go after first-responders and teachers ... and somehow, it will be everyone’s fault but his.”
Hoyer defended Obama's warnings about the sequester in his colloquy with Cantor.
"I regret the fact that the gentleman doesn't like the president going around the country and telling the truth, saying what the consequences may well be," Hoyer said.
But Cantor said that while the two parties could have worked together to find a smarter way to cut federal spending, Democrats have refused and insisted on tax hikes.
"The other side … won't join us in doing that, because all we hear again and again is raise taxes," Cantor said. "We can't in this town be raising taxes every three months. That's just not the way we can get this economy back on track."
Hoyer criticized House Republicans for failing to bring up a sequester replacement bill, such as one Democrats have proposed. But Cantor said that proposal is another plan that would raise taxes, and said taxes have already increased this year.
"We've heard a lot of talk about balance, that we need to approach this situation in a balanced way," Cantor said. "Well, the president has enacted $149.7 billion worth of tax increases for this fiscal year.
"Sequestration results in $85.3 billion worth of spending reductions. As you can see … the balance is clearly in favor of tax increases."
Cantor said that next week, the House would take up a continuing spending resolution for the rest of fiscal year 2013. He said he expects this resolution to include bipartisan language that would give more flexibility to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs on spending for the rest of the year, for example, by letting the DOD start new programs.
Hoyer said that shows Republicans seem willing to help defense programs survive the sequester and other budget tightening measures. To that, Cantor replied that he agrees, and said the defense-related language will be included in the spending bill because there is bipartisan agreement to do so.
"I believe … it's prudent for us to try to do the things that we can do right now, so that we don't have to try to bear the burden of the wrong-headed way of controlling spending," he said.
The House finished its legislative work shortly before noon on Thursday, and was not scheduled to be in session on Friday.