By Russell Berman - 04/10/13 03:48 PM EDT
House Republican leaders on Wednesday criticized President Obama for conditioning the entitlement reforms in his budget on GOP support for higher taxes.
While they said Obama “deserves some credit” for including entitlement reforms in his spending blueprint, they said the president shouldn’t hold the plan “hostage” in the debate over tax revenues.
“While the president has backtracked on some of his entitlement reforms that were in conversations that we had a year and a half ago, he does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Wednesday after a Republican conference meeting.
“But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Listen, why don’t we do what can agree to? Why don’t we find the common ground that we do have, and move on that?”
Boehner has lamented that Obama no longer supports an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, a change the Speaker says was part of grand bargain talks between the two men in 2011. The president said his budget proposal Wednesday represents the same offer he made to the Speaker in late December ahead of the fiscal cliff.
Obama released his budget two months late, after both the House and Senate had already passed their own competing resolutions. In the closed-door House GOP meeting, Boehner turned the arrival of the president’s budget into a laugh line.
"Well, Obama's budget is coming out this week ... whoop-dee-doo," the Speaker said to his colleagues, according to two people in the room.
After the meeting, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) criticized Obama’s proposal for a reliance on too much taxes and spending.
“What we see inside the document is more of the same — more spending, higher taxes, more debt,” he said.
Yet he echoed Boehner in saying that if Obama agrees with Republicans that reforms are needed to save entitlement programs to save them from bankruptcy, “we ought to do so.”
“And we ought to do so without holding them hostage for more tax hikes,” Cantor said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called on Republican leaders to appoint members to a conference committee between the House and Senate that could formally negotiate a budget compromise. GOP aides said that’s not in the works, in part because the Senate has not officially sent its resolution to the House.
“The House can’t appoint conferees because we don’t have the Senate budget yet,” an aide said.
“The Senate are the only people that could start going to conference right now because they’ve had our budget since before the Easter recess. Both the House-passed budget and the Senate-passed budget reside in the U.S. Senate.”
Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson contributed.