Boehner makes budget case at religious convention

AP News
Posted: Feb 27, 2011 10:52 PM
Boehner makes budget case at religious convention

House Speaker John Boehner in a speech to religious broadcasters on Sunday called it a "moral responsibility" to rein in the federal debt.

Boehner said Republicans will work to prevent a shutdown of the federal government, but not without spending cuts.

"Perhaps the activists of unrestrained government think there's some compromise to be had that allows their spending binge to survive," the Ohio Republican said in a 25-minute speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville. "Ladies and gentlemen, know this: We will do no such thing."

Lawmakers must approve a new spending plan before the current budget expires Friday. Both Republicans and Democrats have sought to blame each other about the prospects of the first government shutdown since 1996.

"We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face," Boehner said. "That means working together to cut spending and rein in government _ not shutting it down."

Boehner said Democrats should agree to what he called "reasonable spending cuts" of $4 billion to keep the federal government running through March 18. That move comes because the leadership of the Democratic-controlled Senate opposes a House proposal to slash $61 billion in spending through the end of September.

"They label as 'pain' even our most modest efforts to restore a moral fiscal policy," Boehner said. "What will truly cause pain and suffering is the status quo _ doing nothing _ and leaving our debt on its unsustainable and immoral path."

Democrats also want a short-term extension, but want to maintain current spending levels so the parties can negotiate over how deep cuts need to be.

Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, urged lawmakers to quickly find a resolution to the dispute "so we can accelerate, not impede, economic growth."

Boehner said the shorter-term plan is a piecemeal approach to future spending cuts.

"If they won't eat the whole loaf at one time, we'll make them eat it one slice at a time," Boehner said.

House Republicans next month plan to target entitlement programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, Boehner said.

"To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economical and moral failure," Boehner said. "By acting now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement."