House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during a Sunday morning talk show took no responsibility for Congress having failed to replace the blind, across-the-board cuts that were carved into the U.S. budget last week.
"There's no one in this town who's tried harder to come to an agreement with the president and deal with this long-term spending problem," Boehner said of himself, when asked on "Meet the Press" whether he felt he shares any blame for the Sequestration cuts, designed during the 2011 debt ceiling battle to be so drastic that it would force bipartisan compromise on an alternative. "The House did its work to avoid the sequester."
In the interview - taped Friday following a "pleasant" but "frank" meeting with President Obama at the White House - Boehner emphasized the GOP-led House twice in the last session passed an alternate plan to achieve deficit reduction. The president's proposal, he indicated, is a non-starter because it couples spending cuts with additional revenue through taxes.
"The president got $650 billion of higher taxes on the American people on January 1 - how much more does he want?" Boehner said, referring to the "fiscal cliff" package at the start of the year that mandated an end to the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making more than $400,000 a year and married couples making more than $450,000.
Asked about his demand earlier this week that Senate Democrats "get off their ass" and offer their own replacement plan, Boehner said: "I speak English. And the fact is, the House has done its work. We have this sequester because the president demanded it and because Democrats in the Senate refused to act." Washington journalism veteran Bob Woodward was "right," Boehner added, to have published a report showing the idea for the sequester originated in the White House.
Though he said he's "concerned" about sequestration's impact on the economy and the U.S. military, which took the biggest hit, Boehner said he still questions whether the cuts will be as immediately devastating as the president has suggested. While Mr. Obama was touring the nation last week sounding the alarm for the sequester's effects, federal immigration officials approved the release of hundreds of illegal immigrants as a preemptive way to save money.
"I don't know whether its going to hurt the economy or not. I don't think anyone quite understands" how the sequester will play out, Boehner said. "There are a lot of questions about how the White House is handing the communications of this."
The light at the end of the tunnel, Boehner said, could be the continuing resolution of 2013. Congress must extend it by March 27 or risk completely shutting down the government - something Boehner said he and the president agree is not an option.
"I'm hopeful that the House and Senate will be able to work through this," Boehner said. With the Senate committed to passing a budget this year, he added: "Maybe, maybe we can find a way to deal with our long-term spending problems."