(NEW YORK) — House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blamed the White House and Senate Democrats for failing to avert automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place next month, saying, “There’s no leadership on the other side of the aisle and therefore no agreement.”
“The Senate hasn’t passed a bill to replace the sequester. The president gave a speech showing that he’d like to replace it, but he hasn’t put any details out there. So that is why I conclude I believe it’s going to take place,” Ryan said on Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week about the $85 billion in automatic cuts scheduled for March 1.
“What we’ve always said is let’s cut spending in smarter ways to replace this sequester,” Ryan told ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. “We [the House] passed two bills doing that and we’ve heard nothing in response from the Senate Democrats or the president.”
Congressional Republicans and President Obama remain at odds as the president seeks a package to avert the sequester that includes both spending cuts and new revenues. The House passed proposals to eliminate the sequester in the last Congress, but has failed to act during the new congressional term begun this January.
On Sunday morning, Ryan rejected a proposal by Senate Democrats to avoid the automatic cuts that included new tax revenues from closing existing loopholes.
“I’d be curious to see if they could actually pass that, number one. Number two, the president got his tax increases last year. He got those higher revenues,” Ryan said. “But taking tax loopholes, what we’ve always advocated is necessary for tax reform, means you’re going to close loopholes to fuel more spending, not to reform the tax code.”
Newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said finding savings in the federal budget was “not impossible,” but continued to stress the need for a “balanced” package that would protect the middle class by avoiding automatic spending cuts that would impact education, mental health services and the “devastating list of horribles” that would impact the Pentagon.
“We’re going to insist on doing this in a balanced way,” McDonough on This Week. “This should not be a social science experiment. This should be a question where we ask ourselves ‘what is most important to the economy, what is most important to the middle class families of this country,’ and that’s the way the president is going to do this.”
Beyond the sequester, Ryan said he is beginning work on writing a budget that will balance in ten years – which would require even greater spending cuts than the recent budgets Ryan has written and that House Republicans backed last year.
“I’m very comfortable with the fact that we will produce a budget that balances,” Ryan said. “The reason we want to do this is not simply to make numbers add up; we want to prevent a debt crisis, we want to grow the economy, we want to get people back to work in society and if we have a debt crisis, that is bad for our economy today.”
When asked about his own political future, including the potential for a 2016 presidential run, Ryan said he was focused on his work in the House, saying, “That to me is my first priority. That’s what I’m focused on.”
“Will I or won’t I? I don’t know,” Ryan added of his 2016 prospects. “I’m not foreclosing any opportunity. I may or I may not. I just don’t know because right now we just had an election. We’ve got jobs to do… We need to start thinking about doing our jobs after these elections than thinking about the next election.”
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