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White House, Senate have sequester alternatives

The statement

"There's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester."

House Speaker John Boehner, Sunday on Meet the Press

The ruling

It didn't take us long to find the White House plan. We found it on the White House home page by clicking the prominent button that says "SEE THE PLAN." It leads to a page titled "A Balanced Plan to Avert the Sequester and Reduce the Deficit."

The plan cites deficit reduction of the past two years, which has included a $600 billion tax hike on wealthy households and $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending cuts. Going forward, President Barack Obama proposes $200 billion in reduced defense spending, new efficiencies in health care to save another $400 billion, eliminating some agriculture subsidies and reforming the postal service, among other proposals. On the revenue side, the plan calls for closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions to 28 percent for the wealthiest Americans.

The White House says the new deficit reductions total $1.3 trillion on top of what has already been enacted.

As for the Senate Democrats, on Feb. 26, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski introduced the American Family Economic Protection Act of 2013, which would cancel the $85.3 billion sequester and replace it over several years with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

The bill proposes to cut $27.5 billion from defense and another $27.5 billion from agriculture funding. It would raise $55 billion in new revenue by implementing the "Buffett Rule" (which sets a minimum 30 percent tax rate on income above $1 million) and ending tax deductions for oil companies.

On Feb. 28, the Senate voted on a motion to cut off debate, which would have brought the bill up for a full vote, but the motion failed 51-49 on a largely partisan vote (60 votes were needed).

We asked Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck how the speaker could claim no plan exists.

"A plan must demonstrate it has the ability to pass a chamber of Congress to be worth anything. We've twice passed a plan," Buck told PolitiFact in an email.

He's right that sequester replacement plans have twice passed the House, most recently in December. The House plan would replace the defense cuts under sequestration and find savings in other programs, including food stamps, a public health fund that's part of Obamacare and other savings totaling $1.4 trillion. It includes no new revenue.

But we find his definition of the word "plan" to be ridiculously narrow. Congress often considers "plans" that don't pass either chamber. For example, Boehner was unable to muster the votes to pass his "Plan B" for the fiscal cliff, which Buck himself referred to as "a back-up plan to ensure taxes don't rise on American families."

We rate this Pants on Fire!

Molly Moorhead, Times staff writer

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

White House, Senate have sequester alternatives 03/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:01pm]
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