Boehner: White House not engaged on funding extension

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested Tuesday that a lack of White House engagement on a stopgap federal spending bill is preventing Congress from extending government funding for more than two weeks.
The House is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on a measure to keep the government running for two weeks after March 4, when current funding expires.

{mosads}The move comes amid mounting divisions among Democrats on the Republican stopgap measure, as well as a broader economic debate over the potential impact of the GOP’s proposed budget cuts for the next seven months.
Senate Democrats, with reported backing from the White House, have pushed for a one-month extension to buy time for negotiations on a bill that would provide funding for the final six months of the fiscal year.

“If we had had a conversation about this 10 days ago or two days ago, we might have had something to talk about,” Boehner said at a press conference, in reference to the White House’s preference for a one-month bill, known as a continuing resolution. “The fact is that we were forced to move on our own. I think we’re taking the responsible path forward to keep the government open and to meet our commitments to cut spending.”
Aides to the Speaker said Boehner met Monday night with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the short-term spending measure, and a source confirmed that Boehner rebuffed a proposal from Reid for a 30-day extension. “The White House hasn’t been engaged,” a Boehner aide said.

Another Boehner aide said it would be “tough to see” how the Senate could approve a 30-day extension in time to avert a government shutdown. With the House expected to pass a two-week measure Tuesday, the two chambers would need to reconcile their differences by Friday if the Senate passed a separate piece of legislation.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he wanted to see more involvement from the White House. 

“I hope we can work much closer that we have now,” he said. Inouye said the House’s two-week extension is “inadequate,” and pushed for more time to craft a Senate response to the longer-term Republican bill.

The House stopgap bill would cut $4 billion in spending over two weeks. Asked how the House would respond if the Senate sent a longer-term measure back to the lower chamber, Boehner deflected the question with a quip: “If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas,” he said.

House Republicans have criticized the Senate for refusing to take up a seven-month funding bill the House passed last month, which cuts $61 billion over the rest of the year.

“Why isn’t the Senate working on it this week?” Boehner asked.
Democrats have denounced those cuts as draconian, and circulated a report this week from the chief economist for Moody’s, Mark Zandi, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), saying the Republican bill could cost 700,000 jobs and slow the economic recovery. In response, Republicans have moved to discredit Zandi, with Boehner referring to him Tuesday as “Nancy Pelosi’s favorite pet economist.”
The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, appeared to side with the GOP on Tuesday, disputing Zandi’s analysis and saying the proposed budget cuts would reduce growth only “on the margins.”
Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders were themselves at odds over the GOP proposal for the two-week stopgap measure.

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday that he’ll likely vote for the bill when it hits the chamber floor later in the day. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the vice chairman of the caucus, said he would oppose it.

“I will probably vote in favor of it even though I have severe questions about it,” Larson told reporters in the Capitol. “No one wants to shut down government. But at the same token, I don’t want to see this death by 1,000 slashes.”

But Becerra disagreed, arguing that Republicans are threatening a game of Russian roulette with the economy — a game he said he’s not willing to play.

“I’m not going to vote for this,” he said. “I’m not the one that’s playing with the toy.”

“We’re not interested in shutting government down, but Republicans, by doing a two-week [continuing resolution], are essentially saying, ‘If you don’t vote for this, as bad as it is, the government shuts down,’ ” Becerra added.

“You can do that only so many times,” he said. “At some point the gun will go off.”

House Democratic leaders are not whipping votes on the spending bill, an indication that many members of the caucus will vote for it. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is only urging his caucus to vote against a rule that would block any amendments to the legislation.
The legislation that GOP leaders introduced last week includes roughly $4 billion in cuts — $1.24 billion by eliminating programs targeted for cuts under President Obama’s 2012 budget propel, and $2.7 billion by defunding earmarks.
Hoyer on Tuesday rejected the notion that the White House hasn’t been engaged in the spending debate at least with Democrats. The Maryland Democrat said he met Thursday with White House budget director Jack Lew on the topic. Hoyer also noted that it was Obama’s involvement that led to December’s tax-cut deal with Senate Republicans.  
“The administration is engaging,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “The president’s engaged now, and hopefully that will have a positive effect. I don’t know that he wasn’t engaged before.”

—Vicki Needham and Erik Wasson contributed to this report.

This post was initially published at 11:32 a.m.

Tags Boehner Harry Reid Jack Lew John Boehner John McCain Xavier Becerra

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