Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that automatic spending cuts would almost certainly be allowed to take effect on March 1 and predicted they would force lawmakers to get serious about the nation's spending problems.
"The fact is that sequestration will be some very bitter medicine that will draw some people to their senses," he said, adding that after "two or three weeks" of pressure from constituents, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle "are going to become much more cooperative."
Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the Oklahoma Republican suggested that sequestration may be the only way at the moment to move both parties in the direction of compromise on budget matters.
The truth is, he said, "We haven't been doing our job."
But "we don't give up," he added. "We can't give up."
Asked whether the lack of civility in Congress had contributed to the failure of Democrats and Republicans to reach agreement on spending and revenue issues, Coburn said he thought things, at least in the Senate, were "pretty civil" and not much different from previous Congresses.
"I don't think it's unhealthy at all," he said, for lawmakers to go at each other and openly express their differences.
"What is unhealthy is not doing our jobs . . . And that's what's not been happening in the Senate because the leader hasn't been bringing the appropriate bills to the floor that the country needs," Coburn said, referring to Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"It isn't because we're not getting along and we're not civil."
Asked about what needs to be done to resolve the nation's debt problem, Coburn said the real problem isn't wasted spending. It's Medicare.
"We cannot change our problem unless we change Medicare to save it and put a competitive model into our healthcare system."
At some point, he suggested, lawmakers have to come to grips with the fact that uncontrolled healthcare spending will bankrupt the nation.
Republican leaders have made it clear they expect the sequestration deadline of March 1 to arrive without a deal to avoid the scheduled across-the-board spending cuts, nearly half of which are expected to impact Defense programs.
But adding to the problem of the sequestration is a March 27 deadline when a bill funding the government will expire.
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