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President and Boehner Spar over Budget

July 26, 2013—President Obama took to the road July 24 for the first in a series of speeches to outline his economic agenda for the remainder of his second term while House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quick to charge the president is merely setting up a showdown over the budget in the fall that could result in a government shutdown.

Speaking July 24 at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where eight years earlier he gave his first economic speech as a senator, the president criticized the current environment in Congress, "But with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball."

He said, "[T]he key is to break through the tendency in Washington to just bounce from crisis to crisis. What we need is not a three-month plan, or even a three-year plan; we need a long-term American strategy, based on steady, persistent effort, to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades.” 

The president challenged Democrats “to question some of our old assumptions,” adding, “We’ve got to be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that don't work as well as they should.”

And he called on Republicans in Congress “to set aside short-term politics and work with me to find common ground…. So it’s not enough for you just to oppose me. You got to be for something…. Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending is not an economic plan.”

At a July 23 press conference of House Republican leaders, Speaker Boehner criticized the president, saying “This is all about a big set up that’s coming in this speech.  The president wants to raise taxes so he can do more ‘stimulus’ spending.  And the fact is, it’s his sequester and if we’re going to get rid of his sequester, we’re going to have to look for smarter spending cuts in order to do that.”

The speaker again called for “significant cuts in spending if we’re going to replace the sequester and extend the debt limit” adding that he believes the so-called Boehner rule – requiring spending cuts to equal any increase in the debt ceiling – “is the right formula for getting that done.”

Later the same day, White House press secretary Jay Carney responded that the president “will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that Congress racked up. It is highly irresponsible to even flirt with that prospect.”  

The White House has issued repeated threats to veto FY 2014 spending bills that cut domestic programs more deeply than sequestration [see Washington Highlights, June 7].  Congressional leaders from both parties have acknowledged the need for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running after the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.  House Republicans reportedly are still considering whether to advance a straight forward CR extending the FY 2013 level of $988 billion for discretionary programs or to push for the lower $967 billion specific by current budget law.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806