GOP senator calls on Speaker Boehner to do what the Senate won't on debt

A Republican senator is calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to do what the Democrat-controlled Senate won't and honor last August's debt-ceiling accord by rejecting Senate-passed highway and postal reform legislation.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) issued a statement Thursday responding to comments Boehner made this week, in which the Speaker vowed to reject any increase in the debt ceiling unless it came with offsetting spending cuts and reforms.

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“I have read with interest the comments made by Speaker Boehner that any increase in the debt limit should be accompanied by even larger spending cuts and reforms,” Corker said. “Unlike the Senate, the way the House can demonstrate that it is serious about these types of commitments is to ensure that they don’t pass a final highway bill, postal bill or any other bill that would violate the Budget Control Act.”

Some Senate Republicans, citing Congressional Budget Office figures, have said that the chamber's postal reform bill increased the deficit by $34 billion.

Roughly a third of that figure would come from a refund to USPS for past overpayments into a federal pension fund. But GOP lawmakers, while not debating the legitimacy of the overpayment, have said the refund should still be offset. 

"If a family owes money to the bank, the family still has to find the savings in their budget to make the payment," Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said last month. "By the same token, Congress needs to cut spending elsewhere to cover the $11 billion."

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The House and Senate are now negotiating in a conference committee on long-term highway bill. The Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion bill, but the House could only muster support for short-term extensions.

Corker’s statement illustrates the pressure Boehner faces in adhering to the Budget Control Act. Democrats and the White House have accused House Republicans of reneging on the deal by passing appropriations bills that spend below the level set by the 2011 law.

A spokesman for the senator said, however, that Corker was not referring to the Democratic critique when he called on the House not to pass any bill “that would violate the Budget Control Act.”

House Republicans say their spending bills do not violate the pact.

“The House has and will honor the Budget Control Act,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Bernie Becker contributed.