ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
As the House of Representatives today continues to debate a seemingly endless string of amendments to the government spending bill, Speaker of the House John Boehner says that despite Democratic opposition to spending cuts and the potential threat of a government shutdown, House Republicans are unyielding in their pledge to reduce spending in order to reduce the deficit and spur job creation.
“When we say we’re going to cut spending -- read my lips: we’re going to cut spending,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Excessive government spending is hampering private sector job creation by spreading uncertainty, eroding confidence and discouraging private investment and it has to stop.”
Today, Boehner worked to clarify those comments, telling reporters that voters elect representatives to Congress to solve the difficult issues facing the country.
“Listen, I don’t want anyone to lose their job, whether they’re a federal employee or not, but come on, we’re broke!” Boehner exclaimed. “We’ve got to make tough decisions and the American people sent their representatives here to Washington to make tough decisions on their behalf. And we know that we can’t continue to … borrow 40 cents for every dollar the federal government spends.”
Boehner said the time has come for Democrats and Republicans to have an “adult conversation” and criticized President Obama for failing to show leadership by not addressing entitlement reform in his budget for FY 2012.
“Not only does the president’s budget destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much, it also punts on the touch choices including entitlement reform,” Boehner said. “We need to have an adult conversation on entitlements and the president needs to lead that discussion. He was elected to lead, not to sit on the sidelines.”
Beyond cuts to discretionary spending, Boehner said that House Republicans will also propose reductions to mandatory spending – including entitlement -- later this spring in order to “chart a new path towards prosperity and address our fiscal challenges.”
“If we’re going to talk about entitlements, the first step ought to be laying out the size of the problem. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, we’ve got to lay out the problem so the American people understand clearly how big a problem is this, and once people understand how big the problem is, then and only then should we begin to talk about an array of possible solutions, and out of that conversation, we’ll begin to determine what’s doable and what isn’t,” Boehner said. “It has to be a thoughtful, deliberate discussion if we’re really going to solve this problem. If we get into the same Washington leading with solutions before people understand the problem, we’re going to end up where we always end up: doing nothing.”
“I’ve made it clear to the President. I’m ready to join him,” Boehner added. “I’m ready to have this conversation. I’ve said it right to his face, because I’m ready to sit down with the president. I’m ready to start the conversation, and I think the American people are ready for the conversation as well.”
Regardless of the number of amendments to the spending bill approved by House Republicans and Democrats, the Senate is unlikely to pass the House’s legislation and the president has also threatened to veto the bill.
Congressional Democrats have called on Republicans to take the prospect of a government shutdown off the table when current funding runs out March 4.
Boehner, however, maintains that Republicans are “going to do everything we can to cut spending,” but if an agreement is not reached before the current CR expires, he would not bring a short-term extension at current spending levels to the floor in order to buy more time to work out a deal.
“We’re hopeful that the Senate will take up the House passed bill that comes out of here today, tonight, tomorrow morning – whenever it is. We hope that they’ll move it. But our goal here is to cut spending, but I am not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels,” Boehner said. “We have some Democrats here on Capitol Hill threatening to shut down the government rather than to cut spending, and to follow the will of the American people. Our majority remains committed to listening to the American people and doing everything we can to create an environment for better job growth in our country.”