Democratic leaders reject more White House power to steer sequester cuts

House Democratic leaders said Tuesday that Congress should not grant the White House greater flexibility over the sequester cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the week.

"It's a false choice for us to make," said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, told reporters in the Capitol. 

"We are the elected officials who the public sent here to make some tough decisions and to give direction to the executive branch of the government. This is our job to do, and we ought not to be passing it on, or attempting to pass it on, to anybody else." 

He added: "This is not for the executive [branch]. This is for the legislative [branch]."

Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, echoed that message. He argued that the $85 billion in sequester cuts will cripple the economy regardless who ultimately oversees them.

"These across-the-board spending cuts — automatic spending cuts — will be devastating, so I don't buy into the principle, either, that giving flexibility will make any difference."

The comments came just minutes after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters in another corner of the Capitol that the House fulfilled its obligation in trying to prevent the sequester when it passed a pair of bills in the last Congress averting the cuts to defense spending, largely through deeper cuts to other domestic discretionary programs.

"We have moved a bill in the House twice," Boehner told reporters in a press conference. "We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.” 

Democrats have been quick to reject that idea, noting that all bills introduced in the 112th Congress, and not signed into law, evaporated with the arrival of the 113th. 

"Republican leadership says, 'Well, we passed bills last year.' I remind them, that was a different Congress. That doesn't count in this Congress," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. 

"Republican leadership says, 'Let the Senate begin.' I remind them that the Constitution says that appropriations and revenue bills must begin in the House."