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Boehner Tells Reid That Senate Must Act First on Averting Sequester

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Boehner said he would wait for the Senate’s plan to avert the sequester before addressing the specifics of what should be included.

Speaker John A. Boehner met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Capitol on Thursday morning to tell him that the Senate needs to move first on a bill to avert more than $1 trillion in indiscriminate spending cuts set to begin next month.

The meeting comes as Senate Democrats said they will unveil a temporary replacement for the nine-year sequester cuts composed of spending reductions and tax increases, which would buy Congress more time to work out a permanent solution.

The automatic cuts of $85 billion are set to begin March 1.

“For the last two years, the House has done its work. We’ve passed legislation that has tackled the tough challenges that America faces only to see our Senate colleagues do nothing,” Boehner told reporters. “Well, those days are over. The House will continue to meet our obligations, but the Senate Democrats must begin to do their work.”

When asked whether he would support a sequester replacement model that includes revenue increases, however, Boehner said he would wait for the Senate’s plan before he addressed the specifics. He conceded that the Senate bill expected to be unveiled Thursday could have a problem because, under the Constitution, revenue bills must originate in the House.

“When the Senate passes a plan, we’ll be happy to look at it. Until they pass a plan, there’s not reason for me to comment on what they could do,” he said.

Boehner said that any sequestration replacement would have to balance the budget in 10 years. House GOP leaders previously pledged to put before the chamber a fiscal 2014 budget resolution that would eliminate the deficit in 10 years.

“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that will put us on the path to balance the budget in the next 10 years, period,” the Ohio Republican told reporters.

Boehner is in effect gambling on the presumption that Senate Democrats will have a hard time passing almost anything in President Barack Obama’s agenda, starting with a sequestration plan.

Broadly, Boehner said Obama’s remarks about climate change, stimulus spending and revenue increases “isn’t the agenda that Americans are looking for — and many in the president’s own party won’t support it.”

Boehner has said that he himself does not support the cuts outlined in the sequester but that in the absence of a replacement that includes the same level of spending cuts or reforms, he will let the cuts to defense and discretionary programs go through.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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