Obama warns House GOP he won't sign spending bills that break debt deal

The Obama administration on Wednesday stated for the first time that the president will not sign any 2013 spending bills until the House abandons the spending levels in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

That budget cuts spending next year by $19 billion compared to the August debt-ceiling deal. Factoring in an increase in defense spending, the Ryan budget cuts domestic programs by $28 billion.

The deal struck last August sets the budget at $1.047 trillion. Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget makes deeper cuts and comes in at $1.028 trillion.

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Acting White House Budget Director Jeff Zients wrote to the heads of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Wednesday to lay down the threat.

“Until the House of Representatives indicates that it will abide by last summer’s agreement, the President will not be able to sign any appropriations bills,” the letter states.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers's (R-Ky.) office said the "hollow" threat would not deter the committee and said refusal to sign spending bills would mean Obama was choosing to shut down the government.

"Both the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate support completing Appropriations bills to fund the federal government in a responsible and timely manner. The Chairman is committed to carrying out this essential work, which has already begun, and will not be the least deterred by hollow press releases in the guise of ‘official’ correspondence," spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said. "This year, when Appropriations bills pass both the House and the Senate, the President can choose to sign them, or else he can choose to shut down the federal government, put our people at risk, and imperil our economic recovery."

Rogers started this week to move his 12 bills based on the Ryan budget number of $1.028 trillion in overall discretionary spending.

First out of the gate was a relatively non-controversial energy title that actually increased spending. The White House made clear that this funding for the Department of Energy would not be allowed to go forward until all the spending levels of all 12 bills are restored to the levels in the August deal.

“Unfortunately, the House Budget Resolution for FY 2013 breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes $28 billion in new cuts in annual non-defense spending — exactly the area where we have already cut the most,” Zients writes.

“The result is that the resolution’s framework allows only two options: every appropriations bill will provide inadequate funding, or some bills will provide adequate funding so that other bills will face even deeper, more problematic cuts. Both approaches break last summer’s agreement, and neither is acceptable,” Zients said.

The Senate is producing bills based on the August debt-ceiling deal. Unless Congress can agree on 12 annual spending bills, the government will need a stopgap spending bill after Sept. 30 to avoid a shutdown on the eve of the election. 

Rogers and other appropriators tried to get the GOP to stick to the August debt deal in the Ryan budget but failed in their effort in the face of pressure from conservative members.