Dreaded sequester looming, Congress demands White House identify cuts
In a rare, nearly unanimous vote, the House and Senate called on the Obama administration to itemize within 30 days what, exactly, the $109 billion in mandated spending cuts will affect Jan. 1.
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Republicans in the Senate are so incensed by the possibility of deep defense cuts that they will be holding a series of town halls across the country in coming weeks to discuss the issue with veterans and military members in key swing states. A trio of GOP senators – John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – will make stops in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday of next week.Skip to next paragraph
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The events will, in part, help sharpen the GOP’s attempt to lay responsibility for the sequester on Mr. Obama and Democrats, even though many Republicans (including the party’s leadership in both houses of Congress) voted for the legislation that brought the sequester into law.
“The president owes it to our forces around the world and to their families to put a plan on the table for all to see now, rather than waiting until after the November elections pass,” said minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky on the Senate floor last week. “To keep these details secret and to leave the defense sequester in place as written would be irresponsible, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.”
On the left, the top Democrat on each House committee sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio on Wednesday urging a return to negotiations to undo the sequester. The letter argued that negotiations should begin immediately so that a resolution might be reached before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. At that date, Congress would need to lay out government funding levels for the next year.
“The looming possibility of a January 2013 sequester is already creating uncertainty in our economy. Working together and in good faith, Democrats and Republicans can negotiate an alternative to the defense and non-defense discretionary sequester as well as the mandatory sequester for fiscal year 2013,” the Democrats wrote. “We are confident that we can identify revenue sources and prioritize investments in a bipartisan fashion to avoid the sequester while achieving our deficit reduction goals.”
With such negotiations unlikely, Democrats will strive to paint the GOP as unwilling to come to a reasonable compromise. That was the tone struck by Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington at a speech at the Brookings Institution last week, where she vowed that Democrats would allow the nation to barrel through the sequester and some $500 billion more in higher taxes and lower spending set to hit the economy at year’s end, if Republicans would not accept raising taxes.