House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday pushed back at Vice President Biden’s assertion Wednesday night that Republicans and Democrats had reached a tentative agreement on a figure for spending cuts to include in a measure funding the government through the end of the fiscal year.
“You’ve heard a lot of talk over the last 24 hours,” Boehner said Thursday morning at a Capitol news conference. “There is no agreement on numbers. Nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Boehner’s comments come as he attempts to strike a balance between the demands of conservative Republican freshmen in his own caucus who are resisting compromise and his negotiations with Democratic leaders on a deal that would prevent a government shutdown.
His implication was that no agreement on a final number will be reached until controversial amendments known as the policy riders included in the House-passed bill are negotiated. Those riders include proposals strongly resisted by Democrats, such as defunding the national health-care law, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio.
Boehner also emphasized Thursday that House Republicans will continue to push for greater cuts, although he noted that their leverage remains limited because they retain the majority in only one chamber of Congress.
“We control one-half of one-third of the government here, but we’re going to continue to fight for largest spending cuts that we can get and to keep the government open and funded through the balance of this fiscal year,” Boehner said.
Tea party activists are set to rally outside the Capitol Thursday afternoon, a sign of the pressure Boehner and other House Republican leaders are facing from their right flank in the budget talks.
Asked at Thursday’s news conference whether he was willing to leave conservative members behind in order to forge a budget agreement with moderate Democrats, Boehner responded: “Not very interested.”
Boehner’s remarks stood in contrast to comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the Senate floor less than an hour earlier.
“As Vice President Biden announced last night, Democrats and Republicans have agreed upon a number on which to base our budget cuts – $73 billion below the president’s budget proposal,” Reid said. “Now we have to figure out how to get there.”