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OMB: Scheduled Budget Cuts Would Be ‘Deeply Destructive’

The White House Office of Management and Budget warned Friday that automatic budget cuts of as much as 10 percent set to take effect Jan. 2 would be “deeply destructive” across the federal government and urged Congress to act.

“There would be devastating impacts,” a senior administration official said, warning of cuts across the government, from air traffic control to FBI agents to military accounts to food safety inspections to cancer research.

The OMB report details the effect of the $109 billion in cuts – enacted as part of last year’s bipartisan debt limit deal – on more than 1,200 government accounts, from Capitol Police to the Defense Department and everything in between.

It also details which accounts are exempt from the cuts, including Members of Congress themselves, who will continue to draw a full salary, and programs for veterans.

The sequester would slash 9.4 percent from discretionary defense accounts that are not exempt and 8.2 percent from nondefense accounts that are not exempt. Payments to Medicare providers would also be cut by 2 percent. Non-exempt mandatory defense programs would be cut by 10 percent and non-exempt mandatory domestic programs would be cut by 7.4 percent.

“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions,” the report states.

Senior administration officials in a conference call with reporters urged Congress to act to stop the cuts to both defense and nondefense accounts, blaming Republicans for refusing to consider a “balanced” approach that would include more revenue.

“We need to stop the sequester from going into place,” one official said, noting that the president has twice made proposals to block the sequester with alternate deficit reduction – in his deficit reduction plan last year and in his fiscal 2013 budget.

“The only thing that has stood in the way … is the refusal for … Republicans to accept a balanced approach to deficit reduction,” said another senior official, who added that the White House hopes that the details in the report would “move the Republicans toward compromise.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm and co-chaired last year’s failed super committee charged with replacing the sequester, said the GOP has the power to block the cuts.

“What Republicans aren’t saying when they are yelling and screaming about these cuts is that they helped pass them into law and that they can just as easily help make them go away,” she said in a statement. “But thus far they have been unwilling to face up to the reality that it will take a balanced approach to make that happen.”

Republicans have blamed the White House for putting the defense sequester into the law last year and holding the military hostage to the Democrats’ desire to raise taxes; Democrats and the White House have put the blame back on the GOP, noting that its leadership celebrated last year’s debt deal as a victory.