Hopes for Last-Minute Sequester Deal Dim Further

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 04:05 PM

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent

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The prospects for a resolution to halt the $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts further dimmed on Thursday, the day before they are due to go into effect.

House and Senate Republican leaders remain adamant that they will refuse to accept tax hikes as they prepare to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday at the White House.

The meeting — the first face-to-face get-together on the issue — will be held on the same day that the first part of the $1.2 trillion, 10-year spending reductions known as the sequester will begin.

“The American people will simply not accept replacing spending cuts agreed to by both parties with tax hikes,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday. “And I plan to make all of this clear to the president when I meet with him tomorrow.

“He already got hundreds of billions in new revenue earlier this year. Now it’s time for the balance part of the equation, and that means keeping our promise to reduce spending,” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner said in remarks at the Capitol that he is open to tax reform to produce economic growth and job creation, but not if it results in more government spending.

“Listen, Republicans have voted twice to replace the president’s sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms,” Boehner said. “But the president and Democrat leaders have failed to pass a solution of their own. It’s time that they do.

“My message at the White House will be the same as what I’m telling you today: It’s time for them to do their job and to pass a bill.”

The Senate rejected Republican and Democratic bills on Thursday that would each have helped to reduce the impact of the sequester.

Crafted by Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Republican bill would have ceded power to Obama to achieve targeted savings.

The White House issued a veto threat against the bill before the vote, saying that it would protect tax loopholes for the wealthy and negatively impact middle class jobs.

The White House instead supported the Democratic alternative which would have blocked the cuts in the sequester by one year.

House Republicans are already moving beyond the sequester and considering a plan introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky that would fund the government for the next six months at post-sequester levels.

GOP Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for defense spending, tells Newsmax that he is a supporter of what is formally referred to as the continuing resolution, as is Boehner.

The House and Senate Appropriations committees have already agreed on the defense, military construction, and Veterans Affairs parts of the bill, according to Young. It would grant the Pentagon more flexibility in meeting the needs of military readiness than it already has.

“I think the proposal that the Appropriations Committee put forward is the most effective way for us to support national defense with the situation that we have today with the long-term continuing resolution and the sequester,” Young said.


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