House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday suggested that the sweeping across-the-board cuts that will be enacted in 2013 due to the failure of the debt “supercommittee” could be re-worked.
The suggestion by Boehner at a Capitol news conference would appear to be at odds with the speaker’s earlier statement that he would feel “morally bound” to abide by the “sequester,” the formal term for the $1.2 trillion cut to defense and non-defense spending set to take effect in 2013.
“There is going to be $1.2 trillion of further cuts to meet our commitment,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning. “And I think having the sequester in place to ensure that we’re going to get our spending problem under control is a good thing. But I would prefer, and I think all of our members would prefer that we do this in a more responsible way.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that the speaker’s earlier comment on being “morally bound” was meant in reference to the overall $1.2 trillion in cuts, not to the specific composition of those cuts.
“We will have $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction. Period. But it should not be done in a way that President Obama’s own secretary of defense says is ‘irresponsible’ and would ‘hollow out’ our force. The president has a responsibility to work with Congress to find a better solution,” Steel said.
Boehner, who like other leaders tapped three members to serve on the bipartisan 12-member panel, said that he is “never going to give up on making the changes necessary to get our deficit and our debt under control.”
It’s unclear when efforts to re-work those cuts might get underway. The Pentagon and other agencies as well as state governments have warned that they will need to budget for the “worst-case scenario” and that even if the cuts are undone before January 2013, their spending plans could still be affected.
Asked Wednesday what he believed led to the supercommittee’s demise, Boehner likened the situation to his own negotiations with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the summer over the debt ceiling.
“If you look at what happened to the supercommittee, it’s not a whole lot different than what happened in the conversations between President Obama and myself, and Senator Reid and Senator McConnell and myself later in the summer,” Boehner said. ”There’s got to be a balance to this if it’s going to happen. And the fact is, is that both of our views of what is balanced still has room between us.”
Echoing his refrain from earlier in the supercommittee talks, Boehner added that lawmakers have “got to find more common ground if we’re going to be successful.”
”We have no choice but to deal with our deficit and our debt problems or we’ll be looking at an economy that’ll be a hell of a lot worse than this,” he said.
This story has been updated.