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Boehner accuses Obama of not having 'the guts' to cut spending

UPDATED 2:27 PM ET:  House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday repeatedly challenged the president's willingness to go against his own party on issues that include reforms to social programs and spending.

"I think he'd like to deal with it [fiscal problems], but to do the kind of heavy lifting that needs to be done, I don't think he's got the guts to do it,” the Ohio Republican said in a meeting with a small group of reporters for nearly an hour Tuesday morning. “He understands there is a spending problem. He understands that we need changes and reforms, and we need to solve these problems."

When pressed about the severity of that statement, he modified, saying the president does not have the "courage."

Washington is in the midst of yet another fiscal crisis, facing a political showdown over so-called "sequestration," the self-imposed round of across-the-board spending cuts to domestic programs and the Pentagon. The sequester was supported by both the White House and Congress as a way to encourage lawmakers to find common ground. Instead, they have been mired in a stalemate, unable to find an equitable solution for both sides. 

"I am not suggesting that this is easy,” Boehner said, “but what I am suggesting is that he is the President of the United States. This is the biggest threat to our society."

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, repeats his call for President Obama to submit a budget proposal to Congress, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013.

President Obama campaigned on raising taxes on the wealthy and got that in the showdown over the fiscal cliff. He wants more revenue -- from what he says are "loopholes and deductions" for the wealthy. Republicans have balked at that notion, saying he already got all the revenue he was going to get.

The White House has accused Boehner of walking away from "grand bargains," deals to reduce the country's deficits, in both 2011 and 2012 because he could not sell it to his base. Boehner's office vehemently disagrees with that notion, instead pointing the finger back at the president.

Republicans also feel as if they have already given in and do not want to give more, particularly after passing the tax increase and punting on the debt ceiling, voting to suspend it temporarily until the Democratic-controlled Senate passes a budget, something it has not done in years.

But those maneuvers have not been without staunch GOP opposition and misfires. President Obama and Boehner were thought to be, once again, close to a deal when Boehner abruptly announced "Plan B," an initiative pushed by House leadership, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), that would have let tax cuts expire for millionaires. But Boehner pulled the measure after he realized it did not have majority support within his conference.

President Barack Obama is expected to ask for more tax revenue and fewer spending cuts during Tuesday's speech but can his plan pass Congress. Gene Sperling, the director of the White House Economic Council, Bloomberg Businessweek's Josh Green and Bloomberg View's Margaret Carlson discuss.

Instead, Boehner issued a statement urging President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass something to avert the fiscal cliff. Boehner eventually brought the Senate-passed measure to the House floor. It passed without majority GOP support.

On immigration, Boehner claimed in the meeting, "The thing I am most concerned about immigration reform is the president getting in the way. Sometimes I think he'd rather have an issue than a solution. Here's the guy who four years ago said he was going to have immigration reform, and he's done absolutely nothing for four years. I hope the president will play a constructive role."

Democrats say that prior to the 2012 presidential election, they have faced a brick wall of opposition on immigration, despite President Obama's promises, especially from House Republicans. In December 2010, Senate Republicans filibustered the DREAM Act, which would have given a pathway to citizenship for children brought to the United States illegally. President Obama supported the measure, and it got 55 votes, five short of the required 60 to overcome a filibuster.

But since Obama's re-election, in which he won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republicans have sounded a different tune on immigration.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who will give the GOP response and is leading an immigration-reform effort in the Senate, dropped by the meeting as well.

"I didn't mean to interrupt--,” Rubio said, as he looked for a cup of coffee.

When asked if he is feeling any pressure tonight, he gave a big smile and said, "No."