WASHINGTON — In a last-minute bid to minimize the most painful impacts of federal spending cuts, and perhaps blame, Republicans this week will propose allowing the government to choose where to cut.
They plan to introduce proposals to allow flexibility while maintaining the overall level of cuts mandated by a 2011 law.
The proposal is in response to the Obama administration's repeated complaint that the law doesn't allow managers the flexibility to shift the reductions from such areas as teachers or programs to help female victims of violence. It's also a move to shelter the GOP from blame should the cuts cause widespread pain.
Democrats criticized the proposal, however, saying it would lock in the overall level of cuts — $1.2 trillion over 10 years — which they argue would hurt the economy. They'll propose smaller spending reductions supplemented by tax increases.
Both proposals are expected to be unsuccessful in a divided Congress, leaving lawmakers scrambling to act just days before the cuts are to start taking effect. As of Monday, the two sides were not negotiating. President Barack Obama will travel today to Newport News, Va., to talk about the impact of defense cuts.
The first round of reductions — postponed from January — is estimated to be $85 billion. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that agencies will reduce spending by about $44 billion, with the remaining cuts coming in future years. Obama has urged Congress to delay the reductions, even by a few months, by passing a package of modest spending cuts and additional tax revenue.