Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Washington braces for cuts’ impact

Obama makes last-ditch effort to avoid sequester


President Obama is pressing Republicans for a compromise to avoid spending cuts that will automatically go into effect Friday.


WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday detailed how deep spending cuts scheduled to begin this week would affect programs in every state as President Obama launched a last-ditch effort to pressure congressional Republicans to compromise on a way to stop the across-the-board cuts.

Ohio would lose $25 million for primary and secondary education funding, according to the White House figures, and the state would lose $22 million for education programs for children with disabilities.

About 26,000 civilian defense department employees across Ohio would be furloughed, and there would be less money for early education services and programs that pay for meals for seniors, the White House said.

Michigan would face about $140 million in losses. The cuts include $67.7 million in gross pay to 10,000 civilian Defense Department employees in Michigan and $42.2 million to K-12 and disability education programs in the state.

WHITE HOUSE REPORT: How tax cuts would affect Ohio

WHITE HOUSE REPORT: How tax cuts would affect Michigan

Republicans and Democrats in Congress were likely to introduce proposals this week to avert the Friday start of the spending cuts, known as the sequester, but neither side expected the measures to get approval.

Republicans questioned whether the sequester would be as harmful as the White House predicted and worked on a proposal that could preserve the cuts while giving the administration more discretion to choose how to implement them.

Democrats expressed worry that they might be forced to accept the cuts if the public outcry is not loud enough.

Seeking to raise alarm among a public that has not paid much attention to the issue, the White House on Sunday released 51 fact sheets describing what would happen over the next seven months if the cuts go into effect.

The sequester — worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years — effectively orders the administration to make across-the-board, indiscriminate cuts to agency programs, sparing only some mandatory programs such as Medicaid and food stamps.

It is the result of a 2011 deal forged by the White House and Congress to reduce federal borrowing. It was intended as a draconian measure so blunt that it would force lawmakers to find alternative means of reducing the budget deficit.

But while Republicans and Democrats have both made suggestions for how to do so, no plan has gotten enough support to pass Congress.

On Sunday, White House officials painted an ominous picture of cuts affecting a wide range of government services if the sequester takes effect — and spotlighted the impact in states that are politically important to Republicans.

Obama aides said they would seek to make clear that Republicans are choosing to allow the cuts to go forward instead of agreeing to reduce the deficit by scaling back tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

“It’s important to understand why the sequester is going to go into effect,” said Dan Pfeiffer, an Obama senior adviser. “The Republicans are making a policy choice that these cuts are better for the economy than eliminating loopholes that benefit the wealthy.”

Republicans have rejected the idea of increasing taxes on Americans after more than $600 billion in hikes were approved in January.

On Sunday, some accused the administration of exaggerating the danger of allowing the cuts to begin.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) said the Obama Administration could manage the cuts — only a small fraction of the federal budget — without them interfering too much with people’s lives.

“There are easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

Republican congressional aides noted that the House last year passed bills to replace the sequester with other, less-indiscriminate cuts.

“The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) are expected by Wednesday to hold votes on dueling pieces of legislation to avert the sequester.

The Democratic plan would delay the sequester until January, replacing the across-the-board cuts with a mix of $110 billion worth of new tax revenue and more-narrowly tailored spending cuts.

The GOP plan is still being crafted. Officials said Sunday it might include a provision that would leave the sequester in place but allow more flexibility for agency leaders in imposing the cuts.

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