Van Hollen spoke on Monday with bold confidence in Democrats’ ability to influence the year-end budget debates.
There’s also an opening to pass something substantial by way of legislation to fund the government past Sept. 30, when current government spending expires. Van Hollen said Monday that Democrats want to see a full replacement of the sequester — the automatic spending cuts triggered earlier this year. If that can’t be accomplished, Democrats would call for any fiscal 2014 appropriations bill or continuing resolution to include language providing parity between defense and nondefense spending cuts.
But while Van Hollen might talk a tough game, Boehnerland has muscle of its own to flex.
Before departing for the August recess, Boehner told reporters that “sequestration is going to remain in effect until the president agrees to cuts and reforms that will allow us to remove it.”
And on Monday afternoon, Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Smith, offered a sharp rebuttal to Van Hollen.
“Unless we strengthen and save Medicare and Social Security for today’s seniors and future generations of Americans, these vital programs will go bankrupt,” Smith said. “Putting your head in the sand and wishing it weren’t so, as Democrats continue to do, won’t change this basic fact.
“Republicans’ insistence on the Boehner rule is the only reason Dems came to the table and agreed to cut spending in the first place,” he added.
Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to lay out the White House’s strategy for dealing with the sequester, pointing instead to dissension within the GOP ranks, given the failure to pass the transportation appropriations bill before the August recess.
“Republicans are struggling to cobble together a strategy that members of their own party support,” he noted.
Pressed, Earnest added, “The president’s not going to sign a budget agreement that undermines important investments that doesn’t act in the best interest of middle-class families in this country.”
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.