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GOP Pushes Back on Sequester

Republicans pushed back Friday after the White House blamed the GOP for blocking “balanced” alternatives that would raise taxes on the wealthy as a way to avoid automatic budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 2

The administration today released a report – which was required by law and pushed by Republicans – that said the sequester would have “devastating impacts” on military and non-military programs.

“This report confirms that the president’s ‘sequester’ is a serious threat to our national security and must be replaced,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Republicans have repeatedly blamed the president for the sequester, while Democrats pin the blame back on the GOP, noting that Republicans held the debt ceiling hostage before celebrating last year’s debt deal, declaring victory and voting for it. The sequester was created as an incentive to last fall’s super committee to come up with a broad deficit reduction plan. When the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to develop a plan, the sequester became the law of the land.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the administration report “highlights the crippling effect these reductions will have on our nation’s security and underscores the urgent need for the president to work with Congressional Republicans to replace these destructive cuts.”

McConnell and other Senate Republicans complained the almost 400-page report lacks details on how exactly the cuts would affect programs. The report lists the effect on more than 1,200 accounts but does not provide much detail on the actual effects from those cuts. McConnell also noted that no lawmakers in Congress have voted to back President Barack Obama’s proposals to replace the sequester.

“The president needs to provide the leadership to avoid these reductions that will render his own strategy unsustainable,” McConnell said of the defense cuts.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the report failed to provide the level of detail required under the bipartisan law that Congress passed ordering the administration to write it.

Yet, he said, “the report confirms Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s statement that sequestration will ‘do catastrophic damage to the military'” and cause unemployment to rise.

And Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, complained that overall spending would still go up next year even as defense spending would be cut.

“Domestic programs that have seen explosive growth over the last decade – such as the four-fold increase in food stamps – will experience zero reductions under sequestration,” he complained.

GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), who have been leading an effort to avert the defense portion of the sequester, complained that the president’s report was a week late and lacked the specifics Congress asked for.

“The report claims that more time is needed to provide these necessary details – but that is principally because the Administration has deliberately refused to plan for sequestration for an entire year. This disappointing report provides virtually no new information,” the three said in a statement. “With sequestration less than four months away, the President’s decision to ignore the specific intent of this law leaves Congress, the Department of Defense, defense suppliers, and the American people in the dark.”

The trio also called for the president to immediately begin negotiations on a bipartisan measure to avert the cuts, and they argued that “Congress should not leave town until we have a bipartisan solution.”

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