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Top House Republican stays firm ahead of impending budget showdown

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Rep. John Boehner says, "It's a shame (Democrats) didn't pass a budget"
  • In late September, the House and Senate OK'd funding of federal agencies until December 3
  • Boehner, in line to be the next House speaker, says only "bad choices" remain

Washington (CNN) -- Two months before Republicans will take over the House, the party's top man in the chamber signaled Thursday he had no intention of compromising his small-budget priorities in the coming weeks -- even with the prospect of a federal government shutdown on the horizon.

"It's a shame that the Democratic majority didn't pass a budget, didn't pass any appropriation bills, and we're left with nothing but bad choices," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, unanimously chosen this week as Republican House leader for the incoming Congress -- putting him in line to become the next speaker.

In its last major legislative action before shutting down so its members could hit the campaign trail, the House voted 228-194 and the Senate voted 69-30 in late September for a temporary budget measure that effectively keeps the lights on at agencies and major federal agencies until December 3. While 11 Republicans supported that measure in the Senate, only one did in the House -- while 22 Democrats voted against it.

At that time, lawmakers had missed the self-appointed deadline to pass a budget, a tardiness that's become more common than not during most legislative cycles in the past 35 years. But what sets this year apart -- beyond Republicans taking back the House from Democrats -- is that neither the House or Senate have even passed a formal budget resolution, which typically is done in the spring before appropriations committees decide how to allocate funds.

Boehner, flanked by fellow newly tapped House Republican leaders at a news conference, said Thursday that he was "more focused on cutting spending" than authorizing expenditures. He also reiterated his goal to rein in government spending to 2008 levels.

"We've made it clear that what we're interested in is less spending," said Boehner.

To that end, House Republicans joined their Senate counterparts on Thursday in unanimously backing a ban on federal earmarks. While definitions can vary slightly depending on the government agency, proponents want to ban congressmen from designating funding for specific projects in their states or districts.

During Thursday's Capitol House press conference, Republican leaders said the "American people spoke loudly" in this month's mid-term elections and said the party would continue to listen to them as they took over the House. And they also vowed to get things done, on their terms, when the new Congress takes over next January.

"We are going to be a results-driven Congress," said Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the present House minority whip who was elected to be the next House majority leader,

But in the Capitol Hill press conference, neither he, Boehner nor other top Republicans offered little wiggle room in how they'd adjust their priorities or get things done with either Democrats in Congress or with President Barack Obama's administration.

"This Congress is going to be about reform," said Cantor.

Democrats remain in control of the House, under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, until the current "lame duck" session ends. Still, Boehner said that he hopes that top Democrats will adjust their approach to and selection of issues, cognizant of voters' actions earlier this month.

"I would hope the leaders that are still in charge would heed the advice of the American people," said Boehner.

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.