House Speaker John A. Boehner reiterated Thursday that he doesn’t plan to move on any of President Obama’s recent policy proposals until and unless the Democratic-controlled Senate acts first.
The comments come as the House and Senate prepare to recess Friday and not return to Washington until Feb. 25 — just four days before $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, known as the “sequester,” are set to take affect. Both parties have been sparring in recent days over whether to implement a short-term measure to stave off most, if not all of the cuts.
At his weekly news conference, Boehner faulted the president for continually attacking Congress, saying that he should apply more pressure to members of his own party instead of targeting the entire institution.
“The president likes to attack Congress, but if he is serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must start in the part of this Congress that his party controls, the United States Senate,” Boehner said. “What can he get passed in the United States Senate?”
When specifically pressed on possibly taking last-minute action to avert the sequester, Boehner said: “When the Senate passes a plan, we’ll be happy to take a look at it. Until they pass a plan, there’s no reason for me to comment on what they’re going to do or not do.”
Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that his chamber instead would continue focusing on job creation and federal spending cuts — policy areas he called “the American people’s top priorities.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made similar comments in recent days, saying that he’s not interested in an “eleventh-hour deal” to stave off the cuts.
In an interview with the Associated Press published Thursday morning, Boehner explained why he is not engaging in talks with Democrats over the looming sequester: “Frankly, every time I’ve gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, you know, it’s my rear end that got burnt.”
Boehner used the interview to once again pin blame for the sequester on Obama: “Remember, this is the president’s idea. He insisted on this. And until he puts forward a plan to replace the sequester and his Senate Democratic colleagues pass it, we’re going to be stuck with it.”
On only one issue did Boehner leave open the possibility of the House moving first: immigration, an issue that congressional Republicans are increasingly interested in addressing.
“There’s bipartisan talks underway, both in the Senate and in the House,” Boehner said. “I’ve done everything I can to try to encourage those bipartisan conversations as they continue. No decision has been made on who should go first, I think we’re way too far down the road.”
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