Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said that was precisely what Democrats had tried to do by proposing the deferral of Pentagon cuts until U.S. combat troops have come home from Afghanistan in two years’ time.
At the same time, she said the Democrats had reasonably proposed replacing half of the pending cuts with higher taxes on “the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.”
Across the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner led the chorus of Republican critics, saying that “Obama and Senate Democrats are demanding more tax hikes to fuel more ‘stimulus’ spending.”
In fact, the Democratic measure included small increases for a variety of small programs such as biodiesel education, assistance for biomass crops and certification of organic foods.
With no last-minute plans to seek a delay in the looming cuts, Obama invited Boehner and the other top leaders of Congress to a White House meeting on the subject on Friday.
It was not clear whether he would seek negotiations to replace the across-the-board cuts before they begin to bite.
Boehner and House Republicans show no hurry to alter the cuts, contending they provide leverage with Obama in their demand for savings from government benefit programs. Yet they are expected to launch legislation next week to replenish government coffers after current funding expires on March 27, and that measure could become a magnet for new attempts to change Friday’s “sequester.”
Already, some Republicans held out hope the current struggle might lead to talks on completing work on the final piece of a deficit reduction package that has been more than two agonizing years in the making.
“The objective here ought to be not just to deal with sequester but to deal with the underlying spending problems, which require tax reform” as well as reform of benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.