Republicans criticize Obama’s proposal to avert sequestration as “irresponsible”, present short-term fix

SOURCE: Department of Defense

The White House’s proposal to avert the looming $1.2 trillion sequestration – or the automatic across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 – drew sharp criticisms from Republican lawmakers this week.

Read more: Overview of President Barack Obama’s plan to avert sequestration

The President’s plan would (1) reduce the sequester cuts to defense and non-defense budgets by half or about $600 billion over 10 years and (2) close tax loopholes and eliminate certain “special interest” deductions to pay for the remaining $600 billion.

So the President is proposing to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion by cutting another $300 billion from defense spending, cutting another $300 billion from non-defense programs, and raising $600 billion in new tax revenue over the next 10 years.

“I think this balanced mix of spending cuts and tax reform is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction,” Obama said. “While it’s critical for us to cut wasteful spending, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs, and it will slow down our economic recovery.”

(Keep in mind that both defense and non-defense discretionary programs have been cut by $1 trillion as part of the ‘down payment’ in the Budget Control Act in 2011. And unless a deficit reduction deal is reached by March 1st, sequestration will impose another $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years, which will be split 50/50 between defense and non-defense programs. If sequestration if allowed to take effect, non-defense discretionary spending will be slashed by $1 trillion and defense spending will be cut by about $1 trillion over the next decade. According to the White House Office of Management & Budget, such steep cuts to discretionary spending would be “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”)

However, Republican lawmakers balked at the President’s proposal to raise tax revenues and to impose another round of cuts to defense, which accounts for more than 50% of the total discretionary budget.

“It’s irresponsible, unacceptable,” said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who serves as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “It leaves our troop and our economy unready to face the challenges of the future and the threats of today.”

Read more: Overview of Republican lawmakers’ plan to avert sequestration

McKeon, joined by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), will introduce the “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2013” offset the $85 billion in sequester cuts largely through the attrition of federal employees. The bill would cut spending by imposing a hiring freeze to replace federal employees who retire or leave their jobs over the next decade. The savings would be enough to pay for this year’s sequester cuts, thereby giving Congress and the President another 7 months to reach a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction agreement to avert sequestration.

“We’ve introduced this bill…that addresses sequestration for defense and non-defense through the end of the fiscal year in September without raising taxes, essentially taking the President’s own fiscal commission proposal from Simpson-Bowles on workforce attrition to come up with savings. And also, we’ve added on a Congressional pay freeze as well to pay for this,” said Ayotte.

To reach the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction deal, McKeon, like other Republicans, has called on the President to direct cuts to mandatory spending programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that GOP House Speaker John Boehner apparently has rejected the President’s proposal and countered with “a list of demands” that would shift the burden to “seniors, middle-class families, and disabled kids” for Republicans to agree to a sequester deal.

“We need balance. It is not acceptable to say, seniors, the bill is in the mail; bail us out, but those who enjoy the benefit of a loophole for their corporate jets or get subsidies for their large and profitable oil or gas company, we’re not going to ask anything of you,” said Carney. “But a senior citizen in her 70s on a fixed income who depends on Medicare, or a senior citizen at 65 – you’re going to pay the bill. That’s apparently what House Republicans are saying, and it’s like, we’ve heard that before. And the American public said no, thank you.”


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