At President Obama’s invitation, House Republicans met with him on Wednesday and had a “very frank” airing of their views on reducing the federal debt, saying that the president must agree to deep spending cuts without tax increases, and drop his ideas for increasing spending to stimulate the economy.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
“We had a very frank conversation,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said as lawmakers left the White House meeting. “I thought it was productive. I’m looking forward to more serious conversations about how we reduce the deficit and the debt to get our economy going again and creating jobs.”
Though Friday’s monthly jobs report is expected to show continued high unemployment, the second-ranking House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said Republicans told Mr. Obama that they oppose any proposals to spend more money to jump-start the economy.
“The discussion really focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy or should we provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow,” Mr. Cantor said. “The president talked about a need for us to continue to quote-unquote invest from Washington’s standpoint, and for a lot of us that’s code for more Washington spending, something that we can’t afford right now.”
From the start of the administration, stimulus measures have included both spending and the sort of tax incentives for small businesses that Republicans typically support. Most of these measures run out after this year, and many economists and bipartisan budget groups have recommended that the White House and Congress continue to provide assistance at least through 2012 before taking significant steps to rein in the projected growth of annual budget deficits as the population ages and health care costs rise.
But ahead of the White House meeting, Mr. Boehner released a letter signed by 150 conservative economists, including many officials of past Republican administrations, calling for immediate and deep spending cuts.
Mr. Cantor said Republicans invited Mr. Obama to work with them to overhaul the tax code. In that endeavor and in the ongoing deficit-reduction negotiations that the president initiated, Mr. Cantor added that Mr. Obama should give up “any notion that we’re going to increase taxes.”
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the sponsor of the House Republicans’ budget who has been on the defensive along with his colleagues for its proposal to remake and reduce Medicare, said he had described the plan to Mr. Obama “so in the future he won’t mischaracterize it.”
“It’s been misdescribed by the president and many others,” said Mr. Ryan, who objects to descriptions of the plan as a voucher system.
The plan would provide future Medicare beneficiaries with a subsidy to buy coverage from private insurance companies, though the amounts would be held far below projected costs of health care.
The meeting followed the House’s overwhelming rejection of a measure to increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, which must be raised by Aug. 2. Republicans staged that vote, they said, to make the point to Mr. Obama that Congress will not raise the borrowing limit without a companion package of long-term spending cuts greater than the increase
in the debt ceiling – as much as $2 trillion if the limit is set at an amount sufficient to cover the nation’s financial obligations through election year 2012.
Mr. Obama is to meet with the House Democratic minority on Thursday about budget matters.