Oct. 27, 2011 – 1:55 p.m.

Boehner Says the Pentagon Has Taken Enough Spending Cuts

House Speaker John A. Boehner joined an increasing number of other Republicans in calling on the joint deficit committee to avoid imposing additional spending cuts on Pentagon programs.

Military accounts “have taken more than their fair share of the hits” this year, Boehner said Thursday. The Speaker stressed the importance of the joint deficit committee producing a proposal Congress can clear to avoid triggering automatic discretionary spending cuts of as much as $1 trillion from defense and non-defense accounts equally.

“It’s important for the super committee to meet its goal” of at least $1.2 trillion, he said. It is time for “mandatory” domestic spending programs “to take their share” of spending cuts, he added, referring to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

His comments came after a week in which both parties on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction laid out their positions to move toward a $3 trillion debt reduction goal for the next 10 years. The two sides have significant differences, including Republicans’ continuing opposition to tax hikes, though they did express support for additional revenue such as government fees. Democrats presented a plan that opened the door to sizable savings in Medicare and Medicaid.

Boehner, R-Ohio, threw cold water over continued suggestions that the deficit panel would endorse major changes in the tax law. “I have never believed the super committee can rewrite the tax code,” he said.

He reiterated his intention to ensure the joint deficit committee is successful, adding that he has had “lots of conversations with lots of people” in his drive to help the panel reach an agreement Congress can clear.

The Speaker declined to divulge details of discussions he has had with other congressional leaders. “I am committed to getting to an outcome,” he said Thursday.

The Speaker said he hopes conversations will continue and that the 12-member committee will reach a deal by the Nov. 23 deadline. But Boehner was careful not to confirm that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have met and that he and the panel’s cochairmen, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have also met to discuss a framework for an agreement.

He conceded that getting an agreement won’t be easy, and pointed to his own extended deficit reduction discussions of “the same structure” that he and other congressional leaders held with President Obama earlier this year. Those discussions did not produce the “grand bargain” sought to lower the deficit and raise the government’s borrowing authority.

“I am not surprised we are having difficulty,” he said. He did not rule out any deficit reduction option, including the $1.3 trillion in tax increases that joint committee Democrats offered Tuesday in closed-door discussions. But he said Senate Democrats earlier this year rejected a similar tax hike after it was proposed by Obama.

Boehner said House Republicans are continuing separate discussions about their preferred version for a balanced-budget constitutional amendment, which is scheduled for House action before the end of the year.