Monday, February 19, 2018
Politics

All condemn pending budget cuts, spread blame

WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday stepped up its campaign to avoid across-the-board spending cuts scheduled in less than a week by releasing estimates of what reductions could mean in every state.

In California, for example, 1,210 teachers and aides could lose their jobs, according to the White House. In Florida, 7,450 fewer children could receive vaccines for diseases. In North Carolina, 800 victims of domestic violence could go without treatment.

"This is a small sample of the consequences in the states across the country in everything from education, national defense, environment, public health," said Jason Furman, principal deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Five days before the cuts are to take effect, administration officials, members of Congress and governors continued to assign blame for them while warning about the possible dire consequences.

The automatic cuts — known in Washington as sequestration — are the result of a bipartisan deal in 2011 to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Congress agreed that if a 12-member committee could not find ways to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the cuts would come from spending.

"This sequester is going into effect because Republicans are choosing for it to go into effect," Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said. "They've made that choice."

The first round of cuts, now estimated at $85 billion, was set to start in January. But the White House and Congress agreed to delay that until March 1 as part of a deal that raised taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans.

"Republicans in the House have voted — twice — to replace President Obama's sequester with smarter spending cuts," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it."

Obama is urging Congress to delay the reductions, even by a few months, by passing a package of modest cuts and additional revenue by eliminating tax loopholes benefiting certain industries or the wealthy.

But many Republicans oppose increases in revenue. Some want to the cuts occur while others are considering changing the law to would allow agencies to determine how to best administer the reductions.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's This Week that the worst of the cuts could be alleviated with some flexibility. "The best way to do it is just allow flexibility. If you allow flexibility you don't have to shut down the carrier."

White House spokesman Jay Carney has insisted for weeks that the agencies have no flexibility. Administration officials did not respond to questions Sunday about whether they would support a change in law to gain flexibility.

But on Sunday some Democratic lawmakers continued to say the best course of action is a compromise between the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate to avert the cuts.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on Fox News Sunday that Defense Department officials have said "even if we did some kind of flexibility move at the eleventh hour, it's too little, too late in terms of what they've got in motion."

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