Speaker John A. Boehner came before the mics on Thursday, and he made one thing clear: The sequester is here to stay until the White House gets serious about spending cuts.
"Sequestration is going to remain in effect until the president agrees to cuts and reforms that will allow us to remove it," the Ohio Republican said to reporters in his weekly news conference. "The president insisted on the sequester none of us wanted, none of us like it, there are smarter ways to cut spending. The House has moved twice over the last year and a half to replace the sequester, and we saw no action in the United States Senate.
Boehner's remarks came a day after GOP leadership made the startling decision to pull from the floor, mid-consideration, an appropriations bill funding transportation and housing programs. Boehner on Thursday morning reiterated the official party line, that the choice was because of scheduling concerns, not concerns that there weren't enough Republican votes to bring the measure over the finish line.
But that talking point has run in conflict with speculation from fellow Republicans, including those on the Appropriations Committee, who say there was not adequate GOP support — from conservatives who said the bill didn't cut deeply enough and from more moderate Republicans who couldn't stomach cuts to key programs on which constituents in their districts rely, from Amtrak to Community Development Block Grants.
Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., released on Wednesday an uncharacteristically scathing statement, saying that the measure lacked the sufficient numbers of votes — which, above all else, reflected that the House had made a clear choice: "sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”
"I met with the chairman yesterday and his committee," Boehner said. "Look, the appropriators, they've had a tough job over the last couple of years. And they have taken a lot of tough votes in their committee. So I understand the frustration."
Boehner wouldn't comment more specifically about the substance of the conversation, or whether he expressed any displeasure with Rogers and other appropriators who cited a whip issue at the heart of the decision to pull the bill.
Those who voiced this assessment on Wednesday evening include Transportation-HUD Subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and subcommittee members Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa.