By Mike Lillis - 05/16/12 04:21 PM EDT
Dem lawmaker says past shows that GOP can't be trusted on budget deals
GOP efforts to rework last year's debt ceiling agreement have left Democrats distrustful of Republican dealmaking in the next round of budget talks.
"It's difficult to trust the House Republican leadership when they have broken their own agreement and they have walked away from their commitments on more than one occasion," Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, charged Wednesday.
Republicans and President Obama reached a deal last August that set discretionary spending at $1.047 trillion and made sharp cuts to the Pentagon. But Republicans have since walked back both provisions, passing a 2013 budget that scaled back discretionary spending to $1.028 trillion and a separate proposal to replace the defense cuts with reductions to food stamps and other social programs.
Complicating the debate, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week all but guaranteed another drag-out fight over the debt ceiling this year, vowing to oppose a debt limit hike unless it's accompanied by spending cuts of greater magnitude.
“It is a line in the sand because Washington has kicked the can down the road, kicked the can down the road, kicked the can down the road, and the American people think we're crazy," Boehner told CNN Tuesday. "They're ready for Washington to take action. I'm here. I'm ready to do it. Let's go."
Democrats, though, are wondering how to negotiate if the terms of any deal will simply be altered afterward.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, voiced that concern earlier this month, refuting the Republicans' argument that the $1.047 trillion figure in the August debt-ceiling deal was merely a cap that lawmakers were welcome to come under.
"This business that I hear from my Republican friends in the leadership that, oh, that [$1.047 trillion] was a cap. Nobody believed that was a cap," Hoyer said. "You don't make a deal for a cap. What kind of deal is that? We won't go over, you know, $1.047 billion? What kind of deal is that for us?"
Becerra voiced similar concerns on Wednesday.
"It's tough to understand how we should now interpret the words of Speaker Boehner," Becerra said, referring to Boehner's Tuesday comments. "I guess President Reagan said it best: 'Trust but verify.' And we're going to have to figure out a way to be able to verify where the Republican House leadership will go."