Just hours after Democratic leaders announced that the parties had agreed to a specific number of budget cuts to the federal government, House Speaker John Boehner said that they most certainly have not.
“There’s not agreement on numbers,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “And nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Vice President Joe Biden met with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle Wednesday night, and Democrats emerged with reports that they had agreed on a baseline number of cuts, but not a specific way to achieve them.
“Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon a number on which to base our budget cuts,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. “$73 billion below the president’s budget proposal.”
That was news to Republicans, according to Boehner, who was in the meeting.
“There is not agreement to a set of numbers,” he said. “I said it, and I’m going to say it because that is the fact.”
Since Congress failed to pass a budget in 2010, the U.S. government has been running on a series of short-term spurts of funding, and the latest one expires next week. Democrats and Republicans have attempted to negotiate a deal for one final short-term funding measure that will keep the government funded through this fiscal year, which ends at the end of September.
Republicans passed their proposal to fund the government last month. It included $61 billion in cuts when put against the actual budget (The $73 billion figure Reid used was compared to Obama’s proposed budget, which was never passed.) The Senate later shot down the House’s measure, pushing both parties to the negotiating table.
A coalition of conservatives within the GOP have vowed to vote against any compromise deal that does not include the cuts they voted for in February, including “rider” amendments that completely defund the Democrats’ health-care law and groups such as Planned Parenthood. Boehner, however, has not stated that he is closed to compromise, even if it means losing those rider amendments. Meanwhile, a coalition of Tea Party groups are gathering near the Capitol this week to press Republicans to hold to the $61 billion in cuts that the House passed last year. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said earlier this month that the only way the parties would find common ground was for Boehner to “abandon the Tea Party.”
When asked Thursday if he would not budget from the $61 billion number, or stand with conservatives who have refused to budge, Boehner said the GOP would “fight” for it, but did not say that he wouldn’t accept a compromise.
“There are a lot of people in Washington who want a lot of things,” Boehner said. “We are going to fight for all the spending cuts that we can get.”
When asked for hints on how he felt the negotiations were going, Boehner merely smiled and said, “We’re talking.”