Boehner's 'read my lips' pledge, government shutdown battle looms
February 17th, 2011
04:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Boehner's 'read my lips' pledge, government shutdown battle looms

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner ratcheted up a looming showdown with Senate Democrats and the President over government funding Thursday that Democrats warn could lead to a government shutdown two weeks from now.

At issue: a spending measure currently funding the government expires on March 4th. Republicans are debating a bill that would cut government spending by over $60 billion, but Senate Democrats call those cuts far too deep. Assuming the two sides can't reach agreement in the next two weeks, a short term measure to keep the government running would need to pass.

But Boehner Thursday said that he would not allow a stopgap measure at current spending levels.

"I am not going to move any kind of short term CR [continuing resolution] at current levels," Boehner said. Echoing a politically charged phrase by former President George H. W. Bush, Boehner added, "When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips, we're going to cut spending."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rushed to the cameras to accuse Boehner of threatening to shut down the government.

"We're terribly disappointed that Speaker Boehner can't control the votes in his caucus to prevent a shutdown of government and now he's resorting to threats to do just that without any negotiations, " Reid said.

A Boehner spokesman said later that the Speaker was not suggesting a short term CR wouldn't pass, and underscored he was saying it wouldn't pass at current spending levels

"If Sen. Reid is unwilling to listen to the American people and cut spending in a temporary CR, he will be responsible for the government shut-down he and Sen. Schumer are rooting for," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told CNN in an email.

Neither Boehner nor his spokesman said exactly how much government spending would have to be cut for a short term measure to keep the government running.

But as dug in as Boehner may be about not passing even a short term measure to keep the government running without some additional spending cuts, Senate Democrats are standing just as firm in saying they will only consider a stop gap measure if it funds the government at current spending levels.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that their spending plan "starts and stops" with current funding levels.

In fact, Senate Democrats huddled later Thursday to discuss the issue, and emerged with a new message: what they are proposing - keeping the government running at current levels – is actually $41 billion in spending cuts.

Senate leaders including Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, each made that case to reporters separately in the hallway.

Their argument: House Republicans claim their plan is $100 billion in spending cuts, compared to the President's 2011 budget proposal – which was never enacted.

Senate Democrats say following that math, their push to fund the government at current levels adds up to $41 billion in spending cuts.

"We have proposed a cut of $41 billion from the presidents 2011 number, they've proposed &100 billion, both are rather significant cuts and we should sit down and negotiate this like adults," said Schumer.

Schumer, along with other Senate Democrats, made clear they believe those negotiations – whenever they start – will last beyond the March 4th deadline for the government funding to expire.

Therefore, they say Senate Democrats are likely to bring the short term measure to the Senate floor when they return from congressional recess Feb 28th.

Filed under: John Boehner • Taxes
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. THINK123

    Shut it down and don't provide retroactive pay for the period it is shutdown. Time to start saving money, and this will do it.

    February 17, 2011 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Pditty

    WE ARE BROKE AND IN DEBT UP TO OUR EYEBALLS!!!!!! What don't people get?

    February 17, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. mco

    Heres the mandate!!

    February 17, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Frasier6670

    Maybe that would be a good thing. We really don't need this much government anyway. Taxpayers are being sucked dry to pay for all these losers and their socialist programs that people come from all around the world to collect on. I think it might be time for the taxpayers of America to start revolting and put a government in there that cares about its people and not every other countries people.

    February 17, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. RMS

    This country is going down the tubes and the politicians can't seem to do anything but spout rehtoric. And why is no one covering the showdown in Wisconsin? If the Flea bag tea party were the ones demonstrating this would be all over the news networks. This country is in a crisis and the President is talking about the "new fiscal reality." None of this is news to anyone – and cutting American workers pay, benefits and chances for a viable retirement is NOT – I repeat NOT going to create jobs or get our country out of this mess. Shutting down governments at the local, state and federal level is going to be disasterous. How can Corporate businesses be bailed out but the real workers are suppose to do without? The revolution the Right Wingers have been hinting at is going to come to a head – but they are going to be very surprised when it turns into a civil war and not the Conservative Uprising they have been promising. Wake up America –

    February 17, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. tony

    Republicans have absolute "no jobs" creations other than destroy America. A moving backward party.

    February 17, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. DIANA

    That worked out well for Gingrich too. This is what people voted for?!

    February 17, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. mjw

    No wonder Republicans use the phrase "take back my country." They are going back to the days of I said it and that settles questions ask, no do what I say or else. I suppose this is what the so call "American People" voted for.

    I am so glad we have an intelligent President and a Democratic Party with common sense or else we would be gone back to "way back when." Sad that the Republicans would like to go backwards while the Middle East is pressing forward.

    February 17, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. DAW, NC

    If we do not get our way we're going to take you toys and go home and pout, to bad repugnants can do have an adult conversation. oh well what do you expect from the party that is against anything that the president wants, they are trying to ruin his presidency so they can win the next election, even if it does hurt the rest of us.

    February 17, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. ja

    when it shutdown the house and senate pay stops also, better let forfeit their pay, most at wealthy as is

    February 17, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. lynn

    Great idea Boehner, and while you're at it, lay off a couple hundred thousand employees too. Where are all the jobs the Republicans promised if elected last Nov? Could it be they were just blowing smoke? Hopefully the voters will remember what two-faced hypocrits they really are.

    February 17, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    More noise with no substance- Mr Speaker , you got your soound bite, now actually do something. 60 Billion in cuts? Show you meanit and cut your staffing budget. Cut the benefits given Congress. Stop all earmarks. I know all of this is pennies, but before you go cutting anthig form the needy, put YOUR money where your mouth is.
    You cut taxes and social security withholding, then complain that our deficit is too high and Social Security is going broke. Do you have any clue what you're doing or about budgets?

    February 17, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
1 2 3