Republicans on Saturday stepped up their call for President Obama to take the lead in negotiations to avert roughly $85 billion in automatic cuts to the military and other government spending next month by replacing the cuts with less drastic reductions.
Alabama Republican Rep. Martha Roby said the president is responsible for the cuts because his administration proposed the plan, known as sequester, during the 2011 debt-limit negotiations.
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama himself admitted that these cuts are a really bad idea,” Roby said Saturday in the weekly Republican address. “What the president failed to mention was sequester was his idea.”
Roby, chairwoman of a House Armed Services subcommittee, is among several Republican lawmakers, including Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who after Obama's speech Tuesday, is saying how the across-the-board cuts to the military would impact bases, including those in their home districts.
Roby said her district’s Fort Rucker, the Army’s primary flight-training base, would lose 500 students training to be combat aviators.
“The numbers are astounding,” said Roby, who voted against the August 2011 Budget Control Act. “This is just one set of cuts at one base.”
The consequences of the sequester agreement were intended to be so drastic that the parties were expected to reach a deal before the cuts started.
Roby is urging the president to consider two proposals by the Republican-controlled House that call for replacing sequester with more targeted cuts.
However, the March 1 deadline is fast approaching with no deal, as the president is playing golf in Florida during the long President’s Day weekend and Congress is on a nine-day break.
“Sequestration is going to take place,” Blackburn told CNBC on Wednesday.
Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Senate announced a plan Thursday to avoid the cuts. However, the plan, a mix of spending cuts and tax increases on the country’s highest earners, is not expected to pass. It further highlights the continuing debate on whether to solve the country’s fiscal problems with less spending or more taxes.
“I disagree with Republicans who think we should do that by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits,” Obama said Saturday during his weekly address. “That would force our senior citizens and working families to bear the burden of deficit reduction while the wealthiest are asked to do nothing more.”
Sequester would result in roughly $85 billion in cuts this year from the federal budget, with $46 billion from the Pentagon. No so-called "safety-net" programs would be cut. But the economy could lose an estimate 750,000 jobs as a result of sequester, which cuts $1.2 trillion in spending over the next decade.
“President Obama and Senate Democrats see sequester as another opportunity to push through another tax hike,” Roby said. “The ink has barely dried on the tax hikes the president pushed through in January.”