The day after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed mandatory government spending cuts “will not happen,” the head of the largest defense and aerospace lobbying group called on the White House and Congress to immediately begin laying the framework for a plan to avert so-called sequestration.
Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), called for both sides of the political aisle to compromise once negotiations begin. Over the past year, Blakey has been one of the most vocal opponents of sequestration, and her organization has said the cuts would cost 2 million jobs.
On Oct. 22, during the third and final presidential debate — which focused on foreign policy and national security — Obama said sequestration “will not happen.”
He did not elaborate on why he believes this is the case, but it is the most declaratory statement the president has made on the subject.
“Obviously, this is something that we find encouraging,” Blakey said during an Oct. 23 conference call with reporters reacting to the president’s comments. “[H]is comments were certainly a good step forward, because if sequestration is not to happen, it has to be on the basis of compromise, on the part of leadership both within the Congress as well as with the administration.”
Congress has been in recess since late September, when members left Washington to campaign for the November elections. The entire House is up for re-election, as is about one-third of the Senate.
Polls show Democratic President Obama in a dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, with Election Day just two weeks away.
Sequestration, which mandates about $500 billion in cuts to planned defense spending over the next decade, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 2. That means a lame-duck session of Congress would need to pass legislation negating or modifying the existing Budget Control Act, which mandates the spending cuts.
The sequestration cuts were conceived as a way to force a bipartisan panel in Congress to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts to federal spending as a way to lower the U.S. budget deficit. When the panel failed to reach a deal last year, sequestration — mandatory spending cuts across the federal government — was triggered.
Blakey called for a “fully engaged” White House to work with Congress to start laying the groundwork for a deal now, since the lame-duck session would have less than two months to finalize and pass a debt reduction deal.
“We need to see the White House put forward a team of persons, an initiative to sit down and start discussing specifics of what averting sequestration would involve,” she said. “That is again a compromise on all sides on this.”