Paul Kane and Rosalind S. Helderman SEP 15
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday reaffirmed GOP opposition to any tax increases to solve the nation’s deficit problem, signaling a swift return to the trench warfare that characterized the debt and spending debate of early summer.
Boehner said that the special committee seeking long-term debt reduction should acheive its mandated $1.5 trillion in savings entirely by cutting federal agency spending and shrinking entitlement programs.
“When it comes to producing savings to reach its $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction target, the joint select committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform,” Boehner said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington.
The Boehner speech was a direct rebuttal to the $447 billion plan proposed by President Obama last week as a way to jump-start the stalled employment sector. But more than that, Boehner’s speech established that there has been little change in the fundamental positions that gridlocked Washington during the past few months.
The immediate problem is for President Obama, who is taking a beating in public opinion polls as the economy continues to sputter under the weight of more than 9 percent unemployment. The GOP has rejected Obama’s call for new taxes on the rich to finance his jobs plan, while the White House has been forced to joust with Democrats unhappy with details of his plan. The congressional calendar suggests that it will be October before Obama’s proposal will receive any formal consideration on Capitol Hill. But when it does, the debate is sure to be contentious.
The “supercommittee” held its first closed-door working session Thursday, a 90-minute breakfast meeting. Despite the general pessimism, members emerged upbeat, if tight-lipped, to declare the gathering productive.
“There is a moment in history that can be seized, a moment in history that must be seized,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), the group’s Republican co-chairman. “The American people are watching. They wish to see their government work.”
But later, in his speech, Boehner sounded all the confrontational notes of this past July.
“The president’s proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America,” the speaker said. ●
Boehner insisted that the path to creating jobs is to cut spending. If the supercommittee can rein in federal spending, he said, the economy will rebound. “The joint committee is a jobs committee,” Boehner said.
In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session before the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner dismissed the idea of resuming one-on-one negotiations with Obama. The two men tried to strike a deal during the debt-ceiling debate this summer but failed spectacularly.
“I frankly think it’s hard to put Humpty Dumpty together again,” Boehner said.
The speaker said he supported the idea of “responsible spending to repair and improve infrastructure” but insisted that such spending on bridges and highways should be tied to increased oil and natural gas drilling — a proposal Democrats do not support.
Laying out his party’s economic agenda, one week after President Obama offered a $447 billion program of tax cuts and new spending to jumpstart a struggling economy, Boehner supported a plan to reform the tax code.