Two days before automatic budget cuts are to kick in, the blame game between Democrats and Republicans escalates. The Obama camp believes that Republicans are blocking an effort to thwart the cuts; Senate Republicans contend that Obama simply needs to accept their proposal to avoid sweeping cuts.
“Prepare yourself for job layoffs, reduced access to early education, slower emergency response, slashed health care, and more people living on the street,” President Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an email.
If Congress does not act before March 1, $85 billion in automatic budget cuts will limit a host of federal programs and services. Although the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $42 billion will be cut out of actual spending, there will be noticeable effects throughout the nation.
Because of budget limitations, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service will likely be forced to reduce staff work hours, thereby reducing service to ordinary citizens. The same is true for primary and secondary education.
The automatic spending cuts were part of a bipartisan solution to the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. Later in 2011, another bipartisan super-committee could not come to an agreement on how to avoid the sequester. Despite the part played by Democrats in passing the legislation, Obama now blames Republicans for blocking a solution.
“There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks. And that’s what’s holding things up right now,” Obama said at a speech in Newport News, Va., on Feb. 19. Obama wants to include tax hikes in a proposal to avoid the sequester, reducing the deficit through other means.
Tax hikes are something Republicans want to avoid. They claim that if Obama really wants to avoid damage to vital government services, they are willing to give him full authority to achieve the $85 billion in budget savings through spending cuts of his choice.
“I would be happy to give the president more flexibility and rely on the agency heads” to decide which specific programs should be cut to achieve $85 billion in reductions between March 1 and September 30”, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday, according to The Huffington Post.
Obama would have full discretion to cut some less vital spending on transfers and subsidies and could avoid reducing service to citizens, according to McConnell. This step, however, would not bode well with his Democratic constituency, which is why he wants to include tax hikes.
“The president has been traveling all over the country, and today going down to Newport News, in order to use our military men and women as a prop in yet another campaign rally to support his tax hikes,“ House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Feb.19, according to Philly.com.
According to an analysis by Bank of America, however, Republicans are not likely to give the president what he wants.
“Deficit reduction is painful, so better to get it over with now. The Sequester will kick in more than a year and a half before the mid-term election. Moreover, the Sequester requires no awkward negotiation,” wrote the analysts, citing the advantages for Republicans despite the blame levied on them by the president, according to Zero Hedge.
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