Boehner rejects Dems' $33B in cuts

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that Vice President Biden’s offer of $33 billion in spending cuts is “not enough,” suggesting the chances of a government shutdown are increasing.

Boehner, who delivered the GOP’s radio address on Saturday, issued his most definitive rejection of the level of cuts that Democrats had for days claimed were the basis of a bipartisan accord.

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“Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors. That’s unacceptable,” Boehner said in a statement.

In a coordinated move, Boehner and the entire House Republican leadership team, including the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.), issued statements indicating that an agreement to fund the federal government beyond Friday’s deadline was not close at hand. 

The missives were sent shortly after White House press secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama had invited Boehner, Rogers and senior Democrats to a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the spending negotiations.

But sources told the Hill following the House Republican conference Monday night, that Boehner is set to introduce a bill that would fund the military budget for the rest of the fiscal year and offer another short-term stopgap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown. Boehner will apparently offer this bill to negotiators at Tuesday's meeting at the White House.

Boehner had previously denied Democratic claims that the sides had agreed on a top-line figure of $33 billion in cuts, but Monday’s statement was his clearest signal yet that the cuts would have to be deeper. 

Biden last week indicated that the number could change, depending on the inclusion of policy restrictions that Republicans have demanded but Democrats have opposed. Those include the defunding of the healthcare reform law, Planned Parenthood and the implementation of environmental regulations.

The Republicans accused Democrats of insisting on budget “gimmicks” to achieve the appearance of deeper spending cuts, in what one GOP aide said was a reference to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) push to include changes to mandatory spending programs, in addition to discretionary spending cuts that Republicans included in the final agreement. 

“Sen. Reid is attempting to abuse the budget process and limit the ability of Appropriations negotiators to complete their work — dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people,” Rogers said.

The No. 3 Senate Democrat, Charles Schumer (N.Y.), dismissed Boehner’s statement as Tea Party-influenced bluster and insisted Boehner had privately agreed to the $33 billion figure. 

“A compromise on the budget is right there for the taking, assuming the Speaker still wants one,” Schumer said in a statement. “We take it for granted that because of the intense political pressure being applied by the Tea Party, the Speaker needs to play an outside game as well as an inside game. As long as he continues to negotiate, it’s OK by us if he needs to strike a different pose publicly.”


At the White House, Carney told reporters that Obama had invited Boehner, Rogers, Reid and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to a meeting on Tuesday. “Time is of the essence, and that is why he called this meeting,” Carney said of the powwow.

The invitation came on the heels of continued budget negotiations over the weekend, during which Obama phoned both Reid and Boehner.

The meeting will be “more of a leadership discussion, and not a line-item discussion,” Carney said. 

Hopes for a quick resolution dimmed earlier Monday when Reid, while warning that time was “extremely short” to avert a shutdown, described remaining sticking points in a Senate floor speech.

“We worked through the weekend to bridge the gap,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, but we’re not there yet.” 

Boehner’s office said the Speaker is trying to arrange a time for the White House meeting on Tuesday, but as of press time, it hadn’t been officially scheduled. 

GOP leaders also called a meeting of their conference for Monday evening to brief lawmakers on the spending talks.

“I look forward to continuing these discussions, but for those discussions to be meaningful it will require the White House and Senate Democrats to bring a serious proposal to carry out the people’s will of cutting spending,” Boehner said. “Our goal, as I’ve said time and time again, is to cut spending and keep the government open. If the government shuts down, it will be because Senate Democrats failed to do their job.”

A bill must be introduced in the House by Wednesday to meet Republican rules requiring that members be given three days to consider legislation before voting on it. A Boehner spokesman would not comment on whether the Speaker would support another short-term bill to buy more time for negotiations and avert a government shutdown. Boehner did not rule out such a measure last week, although Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did.

Rogers said negotiators had made “some progress” in recent days, but Boehner repeated that no agreement had been reached. Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and GOP conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) also released statements denouncing Reid on Monday.

A GOP appropriations aide said talks reached an impasse when Reid refused to negotiate on a series of changes to mandatory spending programs that Democrats were demanding. Those reductions would allow Democrats to stave off some cuts to discretionary programs, such as education and public health research, that they consider more harmful. GOP appropriators have also chafed at Reid’s insistence that he personally negotiate all of the policy restrictions, known as riders, and not only the most controversial limitations.

“We’re continuing to talk, but the stuff that’s left is the stuff that Reid is telling [negotiators] they can’t budge on,” the GOP aide said.

Separately, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced that 41 senators in the Democratic Conference — enough to sustain a filibuster — are united in opposition to a GOP policy rider that would eliminate government funding for Planned Parenthood.

Mike Lillis contributed to this report.


This story was originally posted at 3:54 p.m. and updated at 8:42 p.m.