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Consensus Forming for Lame Duck Deal To Delay Sequester Cuts

Nov. 8, 2012 - 01:39PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
House Speaker John Boehner, left, and President Barack Obama speak during a meeting at the White House in 2011. Lawmakers appear poised to delay triggers that would cut billions to defense and domestic spending.
House Speaker John Boehner, left, and President Barack Obama speak during a meeting at the White House in 2011. Lawmakers appear poised to delay triggers that would cut billions to defense and domestic spending. (Jewel Samad / AFP via Getty Images)
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Lawmakers hear the clock ticking toward deep defense and domestic spending cuts, and senior members of both parties appear poised to pass a measure during a lame duck session that would add additional time to that clock.

Senior congressional Democrats and Republicans are talking openly about kicking down the road the date that would trigger separate $500 billion, 10-year cuts to planned defense and domestic spending.

Senate Budget Committee member Mark Warner, D-Va., said Nov. 8 that lawmakers hope to “make a down payment” during a coming session-ending lame duck period “to avoid sequestration.”

He was referring to a budgeting tactic to reduce nonexempt defense and domestic accounts on Jan. 2 short of a $1.2 trillion debt-paring bill or a measure that extends the sequester countdown clock.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also continues talking about the need to delay those cuts, which economists say — when coupled with expiring tax cuts — could send the U.S. economy into a new recession.

“Lame duck Congresses aren’t known for doing big things and probably shouldn’t do big things, so I think the best you can hope for is a bridge,” Boehner told CNN on Nov. 4.

Lawmakers during the lame duck period would have just a few weeks to pass a deficit-cutting bill that would have to cover defense spending, tax reform, domestic entitlement program reform and a score of other prickly, complex issues.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., House Budget Committee vice ranking member, also has recently called for a short-term delay.

Speaking at a forum in Washington on Oct. 16, Schwartz said it would be “very tough” for Congress to pull off such Herculean work in just six weeks. She called on lawmakers to try to pass a smaller legislative package that deals with “the things we agree on,” such as extending middle class tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush administration and establishing a sustainable growth rate for the Medicare program.

Boehner, in remarks the day after President Barack Obama’s larger-than-predicted Nov. 7 re-election win, sounded ready to cut a deal on a massive debt-cutting bill soon after the new Congress is seated.

“Mr. President, this is your moment,” Boehner said. “We are ready to be led.”

But Boehner wants that Obama leadership to occur after the new Congress takes office in January, hence the need for a sequester delay.

Just hours after an election that gave Obama a second term and saw Democrats gain House and Senate seats, Boehner was talking about the kind of “big deal,” as Obama often calls it, which would include tax reform, some new revenues and entitlement program changes.

But the new Congress should write it, Boehner said, because “it will take some time.”

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