Speaker Boehner: No one tried harder than me to avoid sequester

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Interview begins at 1:51 mark.

The House's top Republican said Sunday that no one in Washington had tried harder than him to avert sequestration.

“There’s no one in this town who’s tried harder to come to an agreement with the president to deal with our long-term spending problem,” said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on NBC”s Meet the Press.” “No one."

"It's unfortunate we have not been able to come to an agreement," he added.

Boehner said that he is making it his mission to get spending under control, two days after billions in automatic spending cuts went into effect. 

He said it was time for "President Obama and Senate Democrats to get serious about the long-term spending problem that we have.”

Boehner acknowledged that there are "big disagreements between the two parties on how to address it and I've made it my mission. It's a threat to our country."

"I'm here to lead the fight against out-of-control-spending and I'm going to lead that fight as Speaker of the House," he vowed.

Boehner pushed back against criticism that his party is unwilling to compromise to avoid the $85 billion sequester because they won't accept new revenue. 

The White House and congressional Democrats have argued that Republicans are putting the economy at risk because they are not willing to accept some tax hikes as part of a package to turn off the onerous sequester. 

"The president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1," Boehner said. "How much more does he want? When is the president going to address the spending side of this?

Boehner asked if Obama had a clear-cut plan to stop the cuts, “why wouldn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?”

"The issue here is spending. Spending is out of control," he continued. "There's smarter ways to cut spending than this silly sequester that the president demanded." 

But senior White House official Gene Sperling argued on Sunday that there would have to be enough bipartisan agreement in the Senate to notch 60 votes on a White House plan.

The upper chamber voted on two proposals last week that would have replaced the sequester — one each by Democrats and Republicans — and both failed. 

Boehner said that the onus was on the Senate to act, noting that House Republicans have passed two sequester-replacement bill in their last session. But neither had enough support to get through the Democratically-controlled Senate. 

Despite dire warnings from the administration about the sequester's potential effects on the nation's economy, Boehner said he did not know if the sequester would hurt the economy or not.

Congressional Republicans remain adamant that targeting so-called tax “loopholes,” as Democrats have suggested, are arbitrary and won't make a dent in the nation's deficit or debt.  GOP lawmakers are pressing for entitlement reforms and targeted cuts to replace the sequester.

At this point "I don't think anyone quite understands how it gets resolved," Boehner said. 

Boehner also sought to place the blame for the sequester on Obama, saying that the president had pushed the budgetary ax because he "didn't want to be inconvenienced with another vote on the debt limit before his reelection bid last year. That's where the sequester came from." 

Still, Boehner said, if solving spending problems were easy "someone would've done it." 

He also argued that overhauling the tax code and lowering rates is one sure-fire ways to spur economic growth. 

Boehner said there is "mountains of evidence" that if tax rates are dropped that economic growth would surge. 

The Speaker and other congressional leaders met with Obama at the White House on Friday and, as expected, didn't make progress toward a resolution. 

But there may be some agreement in the future. 

The House plans to take up a six-month bill to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year and leaders on both sides of the aisle, including the president have said they want to pass a bipartisan measure and avoid any threat of a government shutdown.