Boehner accuses Obama of trying to shut down government

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday accused President Obama of threatening to shut down the federal government unless he gets the tax and spending increases he is insisting on.

The GOP leader wrote to Obama earlier in the day urging him to “reconsider” his threats to veto veterans affairs and homeland security bills that passed the House overwhelmingly this week.

“In short, the president said, higher taxes and higher spending or we're going to shut down the government. I think that’s reckless,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBottom line Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE told reporters.


The White House on Monday said that while the bills passed are close to what the president wants, his advisers recommend a veto unless there is a broad deal on government spending that replaces $109 billion in automatic sequestration cuts slated for next year. So far the White House has demanded a mix of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases to replace all nine years of sequestration-backed discretionary cuts. 

The Boehner remarks and letter are a dramatic instance of role-reversal. In 2011, Obama scored political points by accusing Boehner of threatening to shut down the government unless he got spending cuts he was seeking. In the end, Democrats and Republicans found a way to compromise on a stopgap continuing resolution to finish 2011 appropriations.

The House is proceeding on the assumption that the sequestration will remain in effect. Using a topline of $967 billion, the bills would increase military spending compared to the sequester but dramatically cut social programs below the sequester level. Labor, health and education bills are to be slashed by 18 percent below the sequester. The Senate is proceeding on the assumption the cuts are turned off, and is using a $1.058 trillion topline figure.

House appropriators are moving the least controversial bills first, and say that they are confident that if Obama is presented with the bills, he will have to back off his threat. To veto funding for veterans and homeland security would be political suicide, Republicans contend. 

“If the president wants to veto that bill, make my day!” Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said this week of the veterans measure.

The veterans bill passed 421 to 4 and the homeland bill passed the House 245 to 182.

Boehner said linking the spending deals to a budget grand bargain is reckless because such a deal is so hard to do.

"No one wants to make progress on the deficits than I do. I’ve been working at it for years now. I know how hard it is. That’s why the idea of shutting down the government if we can’t find a deal is so irresponsible," he said. 

The Speaker pointed out that the threat of sequestration failed to produce a deal already and that the country is now living with indiscriminate cuts that both parties decry as stupid. 

"Truth is we already have a consequence for failing to find further deficit reduction. It’s called sequestration. The president knows that. He concocted this idea and insisted upon it," Boehner said. 

He noted that in accepting the sequester March 1, Obama already said shutdowns should not be added on top of automatic cuts. 

Democrats have been urging House leaders to appoint conferees to conference committee to reconcile the House- and Senate-passed budgets. GOP leaders have been unwilling to do so, saying they need a framework agreement on what would be discussed before convening a conference.

House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida hangs in the balance Eric Cantor teams up with former rival Dave Brat in supporting GOP candidate in former district MORE (R-Va.) said there would be no further discussions until Democrats stop demanding tax increases be in the mix.

The White House responded to Boehner remarks by calling on him to convene the budget conference and doubling down on its veto threat.

"It’s time for Speaker Boehner to match his promises of an end to manufactured crises with actions, and to stop obstructing the regular order budget process so we can move forward to find a sensible solution to our budget challenges," said spokeswoman Amy Brundage.

"The administration made one thing very clear this week: we simply won’t sign into law the Republican budget, which would drastically slash the investments the middle class, seniors and our economic growth depend on. The President’s policies, including signing into law over $2.5 trillion of deficit reduction, have contributed to the most rapid decline in the deficit since World War II," she added.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Plaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (D-Wash.) said the Speaker was off-base and that it was the GOP that was being reckless.

She said by proceeding with the 12 annual spending bills without a budget agreement, the House was not following regular order at all.

“There’s nothing regular order about them," she said. "Republicans are refusing to allow us to go to conference for one reason and that’s because they want to want to force a manufactured crisis over the debt limit this fall because they think it will give them leverage."

"So let’s be clear about which side is reckless today. Democrats want to get to work right now. We understand that a conference is about compromise," she said.

Alexander Bolton contributed.

This story was last updated at 1:42 p.m.