Two days after Democrats on a special congressional “supercommittee” released their proposal to trim the country’s debt by $3 trillion, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday blasted the plan, arguing that its equal mix of new revenue and spending cuts is unacceptable to Republicans.
“I do think it’s time for everybody to get serious about this,” Boehner said. “When I see news reports of some of what was put on the table, Democrats wanting $1.3 trillion worth of tax increases — this is the same number that was in the president’ budget, the same number that I don’t know if they’ve found any Democrats in the House or the Senate to vote for. So, I don’t think it’s a reasonable number.”
Boehner made the remarks at a news conference with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and four Republican freshmen: Reps. Renee Ellmers (N.C.), Frank Guinta (N.H.), Tom Reed (N.Y.) and Bill Flores (Texas). The GOP lawmakers urged the Senate to take up 15 House-passed measures that Republicans say would lead to job creation.
At a closed door meeting of the bipartisan 12-member panel on Tuesday, Democrats presented a plan to achieve $3 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade, a figure exceeding the minimum of $1.2 trillion in savings that the committee is charged with finding by its Nov. 23 deadline. The Democratic plan would cut as much as $500 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs and would raise taxes by $1.3 trillion; the proposal also would include $300 billion in stimulative measures.
Boehner on Thursday criticized the $1.3 trillion figure for new taxes as too high and the $500 billion in health care savings as too low.
“When you look at the Medicaid number that I’ve read about, some $50 billion worth of changes – let’s understand, over the next 10 years we’re going to $10 trillion on Medicaid,” he said. “I just think there’s a lot more room there to help find common ground.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she was reserving judgment on the supercommittee Democrats’ proposal, which was unveiled by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
“Recognizing it is Senator Baucus’s package, it has many of the elements that we have seen in the other three bipartisan proposals: Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Domenici, Gang of Six,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “It has many of the initiatives that President Obama thought he had an agreement with Speaker Boehner on. But again, I’m not making any judgment about any package until I see the fuller package that it is a part of.”
Asked about the specific conversations he’s had with members of the panel and other members of congressional leadership, Boehner declined to go into detail, noting only that he has “had lots of conversations with lots of people trying to ensure that we do in fact get to an outcome.”
“I’m not surprised that we’re having some difficulty, because this isn’t easy,” he said. “It’s going to be very hard.”
Boehner also said that he remains opposed to the outcome that would occur if the supercommittee fails to achieve its goal – a $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cut that would hit both defense and non-defense spending.
“Our goal is to meet the targets as set forth in the deficit control act,” he said.
The panel was holding another closed-door meeting on Thursday and is expected to meet again in public on Nov. 1, when it will hear testimony from the chairs of previous deficit-reduction commissions.
This story has been updated.