House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told FOX Business Network on Thursday that Republicans could seek spending cuts that go deeper than spending limits agreed to in last year’s budget agreement.
“We can certainly do more,” Boehner said in an exclusive interview with FBN’s Rich Edson.
While Democrats could counter that cutting further than agreed upon during budget negotiations amounts to reneging on that deal, Republicans would likely argue that the agreement was a limit on spending and there is nothing preventing Congress from spending less than the total amount agreed to.
Last year’s budget agreement, in addition to capping spending over the next decade, created a $1.047 trillion target for 2013 that cuts or freezes spending across an array of government agencies.
“We put limits on how much discretionary spending we can have last year and this coming year, and frankly for the next eight years. But those are limits, I don't think that they're ceilings,” Boehner said, suggesting a total spending amount might be less than the limits set last year.
Boehner also revealed that Congress has yet to take up the debt ceiling issue, the same issue that essentially paralyzed Congress last summer as many Republicans threatened to vote against the procedure (normally a sleepy procedural vote) unless deep cuts were made in spending to address the massive U.S. budget deficit.
“We've not had any real discussion about how we would deal with the debt ceiling later on this year, or early next year. But clearly our debt is of big concern. I think our budget deficit and debt are like a wet blanket hanging over our economy,” the Speaker said.
Boehner said rising energy prices have emerged as a top priority.
Republicans will seek extensions to the Bush-era tax cuts, Boehner added, suggesting that to eliminate them would amount to an across-the-board tax increase, a bad idea during an economic downturn, he said.
“In a weak economy I think it's the last thing you want to do is raise taxes on the American people. And you have to understand that the ‘01 and ‘03 tax cuts affect every income tax rate. It affects capital gains. It affects dividends, the marriage penalty, the per child tax credit. And also included would be the return of the death tax,” he said.
Also on tap is tax reform in an effort to “bring down the top rates, flatten out the code, and to help make America more competitive.”
Boehner said it’s been difficult to get President Obama to work with the Republican controlled Congress. He said a lunch with the president last week was the first “substantive conversation” he’d had with the president in six months.