Blunt Urges Discretion in Applying Sequester Cuts

Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:38pm

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is suggesting the Obama administration use a scalpel instead of ax to implement spending cuts under the budget sequester.

The vice chairman of the Republican Conference told a St. Louis radio program that President Barack Obama should embrace the idea of more discretion in implementing the spending cuts required to take effect March 1 under current law.

“The compromise is to give the president authority that he should be willing to use as the leader of the country to target the cuts rather than to take the cuts on every line item,” Blunt told KMOX. “These spending cuts are going to occur, and they should occur, and they should be done in the right way instead of the wrong way.”

Blunt specifically wants to give the Defense Department a better chance to target the spending cuts to minimize disruptions to national security.

“The compromise would be to compromise on how you take the cuts or where you take the cuts. For the military … I’d be willing to give the Joint Chiefs of Staff the ability to find that same amount of money but find it in whatever targeted cuts they want to take,” Blunt said.

Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., has proposed providing the Pentagon with more discretion in making reductions but not extending the option to many other departments and agencies. Some Republicans have suggested expanding the idea of allowing reprogramming of funds but with tighter congressional oversight.

“The law’s on the books. We’re going to take the cuts,” Blunt said. He highlighted one difference between the sequester and the New Year’s Eve showdown over extending the George W. Bush-era tax rates.

“Last year, the leverage was that my side … had to come up with some alternative for the president that he would accept” because all the tax rates were going to revert to higher levels, Blunt said. “Now, spending cuts are going to happen,” without any action under current law.

Blunt echoed other Republicans in saying that no tax increases could be used in replacing the cuts under sequestration.

“I think the spending cuts are going to happen, and they’re not going to be offset by new taxes. They could be offset by other spending cuts,” Blunt said.

Obama plans to travel to the defense industry hub of Newport News, Va., next week to highlight the consequences of the sequester. The administration has said there is no good method to enact the required cuts, even with increased flexibility.

“At this point, ‘flexibility’, and I put that in quotes, really isn’t flexible,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Senate appropriators last week. “There are only so many places we can get that kind of money. So like my colleagues, it’s a Hobson’s choice. But there’s no way we would get through sequestration even with just a top-line number without serious cuts at airports, seaports, land ports and all of the consequences that occur from that.”

Paul M. Krawzak and Alan K. Ota contributed to this report.