Boehner says Senate must deal with sequester first

Alexis Levinson | Political Reporter

WASHINGTON — Speaker of the House John Boehner repeated his call for the Senate to pass a bill to avert the sequester, saying the House would work with them once there was a concrete proposal.

With the sequester set to take effect March 1, and both bodies out of session all next week, mere days remain for Congress to agree on a plan to avert the cuts.

Democrats have criticized House Republicans for not taking action on the sequester when so few days remain. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer attacked Republicans Tuesday for continuing to “fiddle” on message bills that he predicted had little chance of passing the Senate.

But Boehner said the Senate needed to be the first to take action to avert the cuts.

“This sequester was the president’s idea. His party needs to follow through with its plans to replace it,” Boehner told reporters Thursday.

Senate Democrats will introduce a plan later on Thursday that delays the sequester for ten months, and includes both spending cuts and new taxes, including the so-called “Buffett rule.”

He declined to comment on the plan set to be unveiled later Thursday.

“When the Senate passes a plan, I’ll be happy to take a look at it,” Boehner said. “Until they pass a plan, there’s no reason for me to comment on what they’re gonna do or not do.”

Boehner has repeatedly noted that the House passed multiple bills that would replace the sequester cuts with cuts that Republicans see as more palatable. Those bills were passed in the last congress, meaning they are no longer valid. But Boehner said that House Republicans had staked out a clear position with those bills and made clear where they stood on the issue.

“If they’re willing to pass a bill, we’ll find some way to work with them to address this problem,” Boehner said of the Senate. “I’ve made it perfectly clear, the sequester, I don’t like it. No one should like it. But the sequester is there because the president insisted it be there. Where’s the president’s plan to replace the sequester he insisted upon?”

Boehner said that if the sequester did take effect, it would remain “in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on the path to balance the budget over the next ten years. Period.”

The Speaker said that he had told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning exactly what he had told the press.

There appears to be little appetite for a last minute deal like the one negotiated in the final hours of 2012 to avert the fiscal cliff.

“Read my lips,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who negotiated that fiscal cliff deal with Vice President Joe Biden, told reporters on Tuesday, “I have no interest in an eleventh hour negotiation.”

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