Obama to Hold Last-Minute White House Meeting on Spending Cuts

Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013 11:27 AM

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent

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President Barack Obama has invited congressional leaders to a meeting at the White House to discuss the $85 billion in automatic government wide spending cuts, it has been confirmed to Newsmax.

But the meeting won’t take place until Friday, the very day the cuts — the first part of the 10-year, $1.2 trillion sequester — are due to kick in.

House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all are expected to attend, but the meeting was immediately slammed as a “farce” by one congressional aide.

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“If the president is serious about stopping the sequester, why did he schedule a meeting on Tuesday for Friday, when the sequester hits at midnight on Thursday?” the aide asked.

“Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a belated farce. They ought to at least pretend to try.”

It will be Obama’s first face-to-face meeting with congressional leadership to discuss the sequester cuts.

McConnell expressed optimism about the upcoming sit-down with Obama.

“The meeting Friday is an opportunity for us to visit with the president about how we can all keep our commitment to reduce Washington spending,” McConnell said in a statement provided to Newsmax.

“With a $16.6 trillion national debt, and a promise to the American people to address it, one thing is perfectly clear: We will cut Washington spending. We can either secure those reductions more intelligently or we can do it the president’s way with across-the-board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to,” McConnell said in the statement.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are circulating competing proposals for averting the cuts, but have yet to coalesce around a single alternative.

As of Wednesday, there were at least two plans for targeted spending cuts under consideration.

Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma are circulating a proposal that would cede power to Obama to achieve targeted savings, while Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has offered a plan that would require Congress to achieve similar results.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake didn’t address either plan, but described to Newsmax on Tuesday the challenges in subscribing to a particular path forward in the Senate.

“There are a lot of people here, and they all have their own franchise,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a supporter of the Toomey-Inhofe plan, said on Tuesday that Congress needs only to provide Obama with flexibility to reprioritize funding until the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

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Congress also could address the issue at the end of March when it considers a bill to continue funding the government through the end of the year and avert a government shutdown.

“There are a lot of opportunities to fix this,” Corker said. “Anything that gives a hint of running for the hills, kicking the can down the road, raising the white flag doesn’t give us much credibility.”

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said at a Capitol Hill news conference that the Senate instead should be focused on its job of passing a budget — which it hasn’t done in four years — and debating the annual spending bills.

He argued the administration has known for 18 months that the automatic government-wide spending cuts were coming, but failed to do anything about it until the last minute.

“The spending cuts are going to happen,” Blunt said. “The option now for the president is, [does he] want to want to work for a different way for these savings to be achieved? That’s very doable. There’s a lot of willingness to look for ways to have targeted spending cuts instead of across-the-board spending cuts.”


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