Three days before the sequester is set to kick in, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio notched up the rhetoric, telling reporters that the Senate should get “off their ass” and pass a bill to replace the across-the-board spending cuts.
Standing in front of a sign stating that the House has passed bills to replace the sequester while the Senate has not, Boehner called on President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to act.
“We have moved a bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something,” he said.
In a separate news conference in the Capitol, however, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rejected calls by Boehner and other top Republicans for the Senate to pass its sequester bill first.
“The Republican leadership says, ‘Well, we passed bills last year.’ I remind them, that was a different Congress. That doesn’t count in this Congress,” Pelosi said. “Republican leadership says, ‘Let the Senate begin.’ I remind them that the Constitution says that appropriations and revenue bills must begin in the House.”
Boehner responded to those critics who said that the House may not be able to pass a sequester replacement bill in the 113th Congress, even if the GOP puts one on the floor.
“It’s time for the Senate to act. It’s not about the House. We’ve acted. Where’s the president’s plan to avoid the sequester? Does he have one? I haven’t seen one. All I’ve heard is that he wants to raise taxes again,” Boehner said.
Still, Democrats and Republicans agreed that the cuts would be devastating. Boehner did not rule out a weekend session if the Senate in fact does pass a replacement plan, saying, “If the Senate acts, I’m sure the House will be prepared to move quickly.”
He also did not rule out giving the executive branch flexibility on how to implement the spending cuts mandated by the sequester. But House Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., said he would not support granting federal agencies more flexibility on how to administer the cuts.
“We are the elected officials who the public sent here to make some tough decisions and to give direction to the executive branch of the government. This is our job to do,” he said.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ranking member on the Budget Committee, estimated that 750,000 jobs would be lost. Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, briefed Democrats at their closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday morning.
The news conferences come as the president travels to Newport News, Va., on Tuesday to talk about the negative effects of the more than $1 trillion in nine-year cuts that will begin to take effect Friday. Boehner and GOP leaders criticized the trip as a “campaign rally” rather than a substantive step toward averting the cuts.