In a three-minute House floor speech, Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly tried to pin the looming sequester cuts on President Barack Obama and said he is seeking to replace the cuts with “responsible reforms.”
The remarks were a continuation of a message the GOP has been hammering home with various different approaches, including plans to pass a messaging bill this week that would require the president to submit a budget that balances during one of the years it plans spending for.
“This was supposed to be the day that the president submitted his budget to the Congress. But it’s not coming. It’s gonna be late. And some reports say that it could be as long as a month late. I think that’s too bad. The economy could use presidential leadership right now,” Boehner said in opening his speech.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, quickly issued a retort, saying, “Republicans need to stop governing by sound bite. The bill they will bring to the floor this week does nothing to address the urgent needs of the American people nor does it avert any of the upcoming GOP manufactured crises or the sequester, which will destroy jobs, harm our recovery and hurt the middle class.”
Boehner’s speech repeatedly sought to tie the looming sequester cuts to Obama, referring at least six times to the “president’s sequester” or “[Obama’s] sequester.”
The sequester was included in the Budget Control Act, the law that resulted from a deal struck by leaders of both parties to raise the debt ceiling in August 2011. Under the law, the cuts were to go into effect Jan. 1 if a bicameral panel with extra authority, dubbed the supercommittee, did not find alternative cuts.
Journalist Bob Woodward reported in his book “The Price of Politics” that the idea originated in the White House. At the height of the presidential campaign, Obama claimed “Congress proposed” the sequester, attracting criticism from fact-checkers.
In reality, leaders from both parties ultimately signed off on the idea, regardless of where it originated. The House and Senate both voted to pass the bill, and Boehner voted for it.
Boehner also hit Obama for discontinuing a “jobs council” that had met four times to brainstorm ideas to help improve the economy, noted the House has passed legislation twice to replace the sequester cuts with other cuts and said the economic recovery has been hampered by too much spending by the federal government.
Other top Republicans hit Obama for missing his budget deadline as well, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia saying there was “no excuse” for the lapse and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington saying she was “disappointed.”
Boehner’s move to pin the sequester on Obama is interesting because Republicans have recently signaled they view the looming cuts as valuable leverage in forcing Obama to agree to spending cuts.
At the GOP’s recent Williamsburg, Va., retreat, Boehner vowed to a group of five influential conservatives that he would not pass legislation with spending above the top-line levels that would occur with the sequestration cuts in place.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.