Speaker John Boehner said today that he is not confident that the fiscal cliff and another potential downgrade of the United States' credit rating can be avoided.
The Ohio Republican told reporters that the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama have not acted on the House-passed extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and a substitute to the sequestration cuts to defense spending.
"Well, I'm not confident at all. Listen, the House has done its job on both the sequester and on the looming tax hikes," he said. "The Senate at some point has to act, and on both of these, where's the president? Where's the leadership? Absent without leave."
The remarks came during a press conference at which Republican leaders sought to tie the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sequestration.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor teed off on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's comments this morning that he has not started to prepare for the sequester, saying that rolling back the mandated defense cuts could help prevent future terrorist attacks and honor the lives lost 11 years ago today.
"The best thing we can do as a people to honor those individuals is to make sure it never happens again. And we have looming massive defense cuts that this House has acted to substitute," the Virginia Republican said. "I was surprised this morning when I heard Secretary Panetta say that the Pentagon is not readying itself, has not come to terms with what it chooses to do on the sequester. Which says to me again, there's a lack of leadership in this administration."
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said the defense cuts must be avoided to keep the country safe.
"As we look to the future of where America is on protection, knowing that the military has already been cut ... we need to come together on sequestration. We need to find a way," the California lawmaker said. "The House has moved and we will move again this week. It's a unique opportunity, and we ask Democrats to join with us, we ask the Senate to work with us, not as Republican or Democrats, but as Americans, to make sure we are protected."
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.