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Boehner: No more gimmicks to solve budget woes

May 12, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau
  • House Speaker John A. Boehner said the days of Washington "kicking the can down the road on the debt and deficit" were over.
House Speaker John A. Boehner said the days of Washington "kicking… (Evan Vucci, Associated…)

Reporting from Washington   — House Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday doubled down on his demand that the White House offer up spending cuts and budget reforms in return for a vote on raising the federal debt limit, but he offered no new specifics on the size, timef rame or type of reforms he'd like to see.

In his weekly news conference, Boehner said he was seeking "meaningful" reforms that would permanently change the way Washington spends tax money.

"For years, Washington has gotten away with kicking the can down the road on the debt and deficit without ever having to face the realities of the government's spending addiction," said the speaker, a 10-term congressman from Ohio. "While this may be hard for the Washington crowd to accept, those days are over."

Administration officials have said the government is on pace to reach the $14.3-trillion debt limit next week, after which it can employ a series of budgetary tricks to stave off a default on obligations until early August. Republicans have said they won't support a vote to raise the limit unless other belt-tightening measures are attached. Boehner and White House officials are in their first week of negotiations.

The speaker pushed backed against those who argue that the public standoff over the debt limit is putting the economy at risk and creating instability in the credit markets.

"If we don't act boldly now, the markets will act for us very soon. Remember, Standard & Poor's warned several weeks ago that it may downgrade its U.S. debt rating not over the debt limit fight — but because Washington has no plan to tackle its massive debt," he said. "The greatest threat to our economy, to job creation, and to our children's future is doing nothing.

Boehner has said the amount of spending cuts should exceed the amount the limit is increased — putting the size of the cuts at about $2 trillion — and he's said he would not accept any tax increases. He declined Thursday to elaborate on either demand.

Boehner also declined to tie himself to a specific budgetary reform, but suggested that any changes should address entitlement spending.

"All the gimmicks that have been used in the past never worked," he said. "The only way to do this is the right way and that's to go in and make real program changes that will put these entitlements on a much stronger foundation."

While the speaker has been in talks with the White House, Democrats in the Senate have focused on attacking tax loopholes for oil and gas companies.

Boehner said Thursday that such proposals would not lower rising gas prices. He added that he supports taking a look at the effects of tax loopholes, but said suggested that any new revenue should be use to lower corporate tax rates.

Asked about recent criticism from a group of Roman Catholic academics who argued that House Republicans' budget strategy was hurting the poor, the speaker, who is Catholic, said he believed the critique was coming from liberals and that he was comfortable with his choices.

"I'm a big believer that in a country like ours those who have the opportunity to succeed and do succeed have a responsiblity to help those who can't compete. I've always believed this," he said. "I believe the actions that I've taken in my years in Congress uphold the values of my faith."

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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