House Speaker John Boehner lent his full support Thursday to undoing a key part of the debt-limit deal he struck with President Obama and the rest of the congressional leadership last summer.
Republicans in the House, Boehner confirmed, will advance legislation to replace automatic cuts to the defense budget from taking effect on Jan. 1. Those cuts are part of an enforcement mechanism he and a majority of his members agreed to accept, but that would only be triggered if Congress was unable to pass a significant deficit-reduction bill. They included the defense cuts, intended to force GOP cooperation and domestic-spending cuts, intended to force Democratic cooperation.
The GOP’s unwillingness to accept higher tax revenue doomed that effort, and so the automatic cuts — known technically as “sequestration” — are locked in. Now Boehner and the GOP are accelerating efforts to undo the one part of the deal that they don’t like.
“We should never have had the sequester,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly press availability Thursday. “I always thought that the Super Committee had a real chance to do good work, to produce savings so that the sequester wouldn’t kick in. I think that the sequester will hurt our Department of Defense, will hurt our ability to do what Americans believe is our most basic responsibility, and that’s to provide security for the American people. I believe that Secretary Panetta believes the same thing. And for that matter, I think the White House believes that the sequester is totally unacceptable. That’s why the House will act this spring to replace that [defense] sequester. And hopefully in some time near in the future the Congress will really act to deal with our long term spending problem and our deficit problem. We can’t keep spending money we don’t have.”
Republicans have been moving in this direction for some time. But they now have full buy-in from the speaker of the House. Only a few months ago, Boehner said he felt bound by the deal he struck with Obama.
At a background briefing for reporters earlier this week, senior Obama administration officials lambasted the GOP and its leadership for breaking faith with the debt-limit deal, and suggested it will have implications for any future negotiations the White House conducts with Republican leaders in Congress.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.