White House: Obama would veto supercommittee resolution

Updated Oct. 8, 2013 at 11:35 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The White House said if Congress passes legislation establishing a so-called supercommittee on deficit reduction, U.S. President Barack Obama will veto it.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Tuesday introduced a resolution calling for such a bicameral commission -- with 10 members appointed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and 10 appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. -- to develop recommendations on "discretionary spending levels" for fiscal year 2012, "a change in the debt limit" and "reforms to direct spending programs," an executive summary of the resolution said.

Backers proposed passing the resolution jointly with a budget plan known as H.J. Res. 89, but the White House said in a statement Tuesday such a move would do "nothing to solve the immediate, pressing obligations the Congress has to open the government and pay its bills."

"The House should allow a straight up-or-down vote on Senate-passed H.J. Res. 59 to reopen the government, bring all the nation's dedicated civil servants back to work and provide the services middle-class Americans deserve," the statement said. "In addition, the House should pass a clean debt-ceiling bill without drama or delay so that the United States can continue to pay its bills and fulfill the nation's obligations."

The statement came after Obama and Boehner held Washington news conferences on the budget and the debt limit.

Obama said at the White House he is willing to negotiate any budget item -- including healthcare -- but not under the threat of a shutdown or debt default.

"We can't make extortion ... part of our democracy. ... As reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown caused by America defaulting would be infinitely worse," the president said.

Obama rejected any suggestion he could raise the debt limit under the 14th Amendment. He said legal problems would make such a move uncertain, asking, "What if there's a Supreme Court case saying these [actions] aren't valid?"

House Republicans have refused to fund the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded or delayed. Senate Democrats assert they have already compromised with Republicans by adopting a budget far leaner than what they prefer and say they will not compromise further unless the House passes a so-called clean continuing resolution on the budget without conditions.

The president again asserted there are enough votes in the House for a clean continuing resolution if the House leadership lets the vote occur.

Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill the Republican-led House already has passed bills to fund the government, bills that provided "fairness to the American people over Obamacare."

He said past presidents have negotiated deals over the budget and Obama should do so as well, citing the 2011 deal that resulted in drastic cuts known as the sequester.

But Boehner said Obama was refusing to sit down with him.

"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, we'll sit down and negotiate," the speaker said. "That's not how government works."

On raising the debt limit, facing a deadline next week, Boehner said, "I certainly didn't come here to default on our debt."

Despite the president's assertions, "there's going to be a negotiation here," Boehner said. "We can't raise the debt ceiling without a conversation."

At the White House news conference earlier, Obama said he spoke with Boehner "and I told him what I am saying publicly, I am happy to talk about anything," including the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

But talks "shouldn't require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the American people," Obama said, adding, "House Republicans don't get to demand ransom for doing their jobs."

Obama asked reporters what the reaction would be if a Democratic House demanded a Republican president approve gun control background checks, threatening a shutdown and default.

The president said the shutdown and threat not to raise the debt ceiling were part of a Republican strategy.

"They've said it from the start," he said.

Obama said he or his chief of staff have met with Republicans on the budget 20 times during the last few months.

The president repeatedly hammered House Republicans, saying, "We can't afford these manufactured crises every few months." He said the impasse was driven by "the Republican obsession with dismantling the Affordable Care Act and denying healthcare to millions of American people. ...

"The greatest nation on Earth should not have to get permission from a few irresponsible congressmen every few months" to avoid economic chaos.

House Democrats were not receptive to the GOP proposal for a new supercommittee.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said: "Not again. Not again. Oh my gosh," The Hill reported.

Becerra heads the House Democratic Caucus and was a member of the first supercommittee, formed during the debt limit fight of 2011.

"The speaker knows the votes exist to stop this gimmickry," Becerra said.

The supercommittee failed to find $1.2 trillion in savings, leading to broad sequester cuts.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama called Boehner, saying he is willing to negotiate after the shutdown is ended and the U.S. debt ceiling lifted.

A statement issued by the White House said Obama telephoned Boehner "and repeated what he told him when they met at the White House last week: The president is willing to negotiate with Republicans -- after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed -- over policies that Republicans think would strengthen the country."

The statement said Obama is willing "to negotiate on priorities that he has identified, including policies that expand economic opportunity, support private sector job creation, enhance the competitiveness of American businesses, strengthen the Affordable Care Act and continue to reduce the nation's deficit."

As he has before, Obama urged Boehner to hold a vote in the House on the Senate-passed measure to re-open the federal government immediately.

"Citing the Senate's intention to pass a clean, yearlong extension of the debt limit this week, the president also pressed the speaker to allow a timely up-or-down vote in the House to raise the debt limit with no ideological strings attached," the White House said.

Boehner, speaking after his weekly meeting with fellow House Republicans, was still on the attack, saying Obama and Reid were "putting our country on a pretty dangerous path" by refusing to enter talks.

"Listen, there's never been a president in our history that did not negotiate over the debt limit, never, not once," Boehner told reporters. "As a matter of fact, President Obama negotiated with me over the debt limit in 2011. He also negotiated with the Blue Dog Democrats to raise the debt in ceiling in 2010. So the way to resolve this is to sit down and have a conversation to resolve our differences."

Boehner did not say under what conditions he would negotiate, and declined to answer a reporter's question on whether he would support a short-term lifting of the debt ceiling, The Washington Post reported.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Reid again said he would negotiate with Boehner if the House passes a clean continuing resolution to open the government and raises the debt ceiling.

CNN reported Tuesday there are enough Democrats and Republicans in the House to pass a "clean" continuing resolution on the budget.

The U.S. broadcaster said all 200 Democrats and 17 Republicans would support a clean CR, the minimum needed, bearing out what Obama said Monday. MSNBC said its vote count was the same.

But CNN said the vote count does not mean the House will take up the measure soon because even those who support a clean CR do not want to force Boehner to allow a vote, and the vote count is shifting day by day.

Boehner has said there are not enough votes in the House for a clean CR ending the partial government shutdown.

The government shutdown started its second week Tuesday with no bipartisan meetings planned on resolving it.

The U.S. Treasury says it will reach the debt limit Oct. 17.

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