Boehner urges GOP to ‘stay on offense’ over taxes, defense cuts

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE (R-Ohio) Tuesday urged his colleagues to “stay on offense” this election season and continue pounding the White House on tax cuts and looming massive defense cuts.

According to a source in the closed-door GOP conference meeting, the top-ranking Republican said those were the “two threats facing the American people” and pressed lawmakers to tout their record of these issues during the five-week August recess and run up to November’s election.

“Republicans are the only ones in this town with a plan to address both the threat to our economy and the threat to our security,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE told his colleagues at the weekly private meeting.

Boehner said House Republicans had already acted on the “looming defense sequester, which will hit our military with arbitrary cuts that will endanger our security.” 

Republicans are hoping to pin blame for the impending defense cuts on Obama. 

Last week, the House passed a bill that would force the White House to better detail the cuts to Congress. At hearings before the Armed Services Committee, defense executives have also been called to testify about the harmful impact the cuts would have.

Boehner also highlighted a package the House will vote on this week to eliminate regulations that have caused “uncertainty” for small businesses, followed next week by a plan to extend a host of tax cuts enacted during former President George W. Bush’s term in office for another year.

Citing a recent report issued by accounting firm Ernst & Young, on the repercussions of allowing the Bush-tax cuts to expire, Boehner told GOP lawmakers that the “tax hike will cost our economy about 700,000 jobs.” 

“We will act next week to stop these jobs from being lost by stopping the tax hike, including the president’s small-business tax hike,” he added.

Senate Democrats will vote on a measure to extend the lower Bush-era tax rates for those making under $250,000 a year. Republicans, though, want an across-the-board extension, which the president has vowed to block.

Boehner ended his remarks saying, “We have the high ground in this fight, and the Democrats know it. … Let’s stay on offense.”

Following the weekly conference meeting, held at the Capitol Hill Club, a handful of House GOP leaders spoke with reporters on the regulation freeze and tax cut plan.

Asked whether the GOP plan would incorporate tax cuts that were included in President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, Speaker Boehner hedged.

"There's been a lot of concern raised last year over the payroll tax cut because of the fact [that it hurts the] solvency of the Social Security trust fund — so you've heard Democrats and Republicans raise serious concerns of that contingent,” he said. 

Extending the payroll tax cuts caused a major internal debate and headache for Boehner last December; House Republicans eventually caved and extended the tax holiday for one year and staved off a government shutdown. 

The Speaker also seemed confident that his colleagues would be amenable to approving a temporary government funding measure that includes money for the president's healthcare law in order to eliminate the threat of a government shutdown during a lame-duck session. 

Asked if such a stopgap bill — a continuing resolution (CR) — would contain funding for the Affordable Care Act, Boehner told reporters, "I expect that we'll have agreement with the Senate on the CR ... considering that we have been fighting. The House has voted 33 times to repeal and change ObamaCare — our goal would be to make sure the government is funded and political talk of a government shutdown" is avoided.