Republicans Brace for Sequester Fallout

Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 09:17 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Congressional Republicans are willing to face the political fallout from the sequester, which could hit the Pentagon and non-defense discretionary spending in less than two weeks, because they see it as the best way to reduce the government deficit.

"The bigger concern is what is good for the country," Colorado Rep. Bruce Lamborn told The Hill.

Lamborn and other lawmakers would have to cut their staffs if the first wave of $85 billion in automatic budget cuts scheduled to take place March 1 actually happens.

In addition to defense and other government department cuts, the White House has warned specifically that the sequester will affect loan guarantees to small businesses, end Head Start funding for 70,000 children, leave 373,000 mentally ill people without treatment ,and force FEMA to eliminate grants for firefighters and emergency personnel.

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Republicans, however, are reportedly preparing to remind voters that it was the White House that devised the plan in the first place, even though GOP leaders agreed to go along with it as part of the 2011 bipartisan debt ceiling deal to trim the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

The automatic cuts were meant to serve as an impetus for a bipartisan committee of legislators to reach agreement on a plan for balancing the budget that would include a mix of more targeted cuts and revenue.

"It was [Obama's] idea," Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack told the Hill. "We know that there are elections coming in 2014. We know that the president and the [Democratic] party will be all out to reclaim the House, but we have acted in good faith. So the president can put all this on Republicans all he wants, but that's just not the fact."

Speaker John Boehner has called for the Senate to act first to stop the sequester, the Hill noted. But the GOP-controlled House is likely to reject a Senate Democratic proposal unveiled last week that would replace the sequester with $110 billion in deficit reductions because it includes $55 billion in new revenues from taxes.

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As the sequestration deadline approaches, however, some lawmakers are cautioning that both parties stand to lose.

"I think we'll all get blamed, as I think is probably appropriate, because I think it’s a terrible way to govern," Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota told The Hill. “I think there is more time being spent right now trying to figure out who's going to catch the blame than trying to fix it.”


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