Senate Republicans Reject Democrats’ Two-Year Sequestration Delay

Senate Republicans on Sunday rejected Democrats’ proposal to delay massive cuts to planned defense and domestic spending, using new tax revenues to pay for the change, lawmakers said.

GOP senators emerged from a closed-door meeting on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff and told reporters Democratic Senate leaders put a two-year delay to pending twin $500 billion cuts to projected spending on Pentagon and domestic programs.

“My understanding is the other side put up a two-year delay that would have been paid for by $600 billion in new tax revenues,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, told Defense News as she departed the GOP caucus meeting.

But Republicans quickly rejected the plan because raising taxes even to fund the Defense Department budget they strongly support is a “non-starter,” Snowe said.

What GOP lawmakers want, several said Sunday, are non-defense spending cuts to turn off the pending cuts to all non-exempt Pentagon accounts.

“We cannot put a moratorium on the sequestration and get to the heart of the problem,” Sen Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, told reporters. “And that is spending.”

But Democrats like Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois say every plan Republicans have thus far offered would increase the federal deficit.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain, R-Ariz., told Defense News the defense sequestration matter is “one of the biggest problems because, obviously, some of us that cannot vote for anything that does not address sequester because of national security.”

Sen. Joseph Leiberman, I-Conn., left the Democratic meeting early and told reporters prospects for a passable deal that would avert at least part of the fiscal cliff are “discouraging.”

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, blamed President Obama for creating the CPI impasse.

“One of the proposals we made was something called chain CPI, which sounds real technical, but basically makes an adjustment in terms of how inflation is calculated for Social Security,” Obama said during an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

It is “highly unpopular among Democrats, not something supported by AARP, but in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term, I’m willing to make those decisions,” Obama said.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., left his party’s caucus meeting looking dour and frustrated. As reporters approached him and asked questions, Reed looked up from the floor only a few times.

Reed said the two parties remain far apart on issues such as Social Security reforms and tax rate changes.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett