House Speaker John Boehner tried to tone down his remarks from earlier this week when he said "so be it" in response to a reporter's question about Republican spending cuts leading to job losses for federal workers. Democrats quickly seized on his comments to paint the Republicans as out of touch with the pain of unemployed workers while the unemployment rate is at nine percent.
(Watch excerpts from Boehner's remarks at left.)
"Listen, I don't want anyone to lose their job, whether they're a federal employee or not," Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference on Thursday. But he did not say he would do anything to prevent federal jobs losses.
"Come on, we're broke," he said, explaining that lawmakers had to make "tough choices" about where to cut spending.
Boehner also played down a major hit he took yesterday, when 110 members of his party joined 123 Democrats to kill $450 million in funding for the Joint Strike Fighter second engine program -- an elimination that would cost his own constituents jobs, as parts of the fighter engine would be built in Cincinnati near his own district.
"I am committed to the House working its will," Boehner said. "This is not about me. This is not about my district. This ought to be about the U.S. House speaking on behalf of all Americans - both Democrats and Republicans."
The funding could be restored for the second engine if the Senate does not include the cut in its version of a spending bill to keep the government operating beyond March 4th.
As the House tries to wrap up its work on a $1 trillion spending bill that includes more than $60 billion in spending cuts as early as today, the rhetoric surrounding a possible government shutdown is getting heated.
"We have some Democrats here on Capitol Hill threatening to shut down government rather than to cut spending and to follow the will of the American people," said Boehner referring to Senate Democrats led by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
(Watch Reid's response at left.)
Boehner also said at the press conference that he's "not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels."
Reid characterized that statement as a threat to shut down the government if the House does not get its way. "We're terribly disappointed that Speaker Boehner can't control the votes in his caucus to prevent a shutdown of government and now he is resorting to threats to do just that without any negotiations," said Reid.
"That is not permissible," Reid added. "We will not stand for that"
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel immediately shot back in an emailed statement.
"If Sen. Reid is unwilling to listen to the American people and cut spending in a temporary CR, he will be responsible for the government shut-down he and Sen. Schumer are rooting for," said Steel.
Of course, for all of the back and forth over which chamber is more concerned about a government shutdown, both the House and Senate go on recess next week. The Senate won't even take up a spending bill, a bill guaranteed to look very different from the legislation the House will pass this week, until after that break. So both parties are leaving very little time to work out differences and prevent a government shutdown.