The 2013 sequester is the first in a series of cuts to occur over the next decade that are to result in $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Its slow bleed began Friday after Obama signed the sequestration order for $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts, half military and half domestic.
Congress failed to find an alternative when top leaders met with Obama for the first time Friday regarding the issue.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC that Democrats don’t have a plan for averting the sequester, and that Republicans do want tax reform.
“I want tax reform. Republicans want tax reform. We want to bring rates down for all Americans so that we've got a fairer tax code,” he said. “But to arbitrarily pull out a couple of tax expenditures and to say we've got to use that to get rid of the sequester? ... We know we have a structural deficit. ... It’s time the president and Senate Democrats get serious about the long-term spending problem that we have.”
Democrats have been calling for a compromise that includes spending cuts and new tax revenues obtained from taxing millionaires and getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy. But Boehner argued on Sunday that Obama and his allies already got more than $600 billion in new tax revenue in January when the fiscal cliff was averted.
“How much more does he want? When is the president going to address the spending side of this?” Boehner asked. “He got his tax hike. It’s time to cut spending and every American knows it. ... Everybody in Washington knows what the problem is but nobody wants to address it. I've been here for 22 years and I've watched presidents from both parties, I've watched leaders from both parties, kick this can down the road. We are out of road to kick the can down.”
While the speaker continues to argue that America cannot tax its way out of its fiscal problem, White House Economic Director Gene Sperling said the president’s plan reflects a compromise.
When the Pentagon budget shrinks by more than $40 billion, Sperling said many will begin feeling the pain from sequestration, especially in places that depend on military spending.
“Our hope is that as Republicans see the hurt in their own constituencies that they would choose bipartisan compromise over this absolutist position,” Sperling told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Sperling said having the sequester kick in isn’t “a win for Republicans” who have remained concerned about defense, national security, border patrol and entitlement reform.
That is because defense spending is being cut by 13 percent under the meat cleaver approach. While domestic programs will see a 9 percent reduction in their budgets, the sequester does nothing to reform entitlements. As a matter of fact, Obama has issued guidance that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are exempt from the sequester.
“The only win, if you can call it that, that this gives, is those on the Republican side who are willing to let all this harm be inflicted just so they can stand by this principle, that there should not be one dime of deficit reduction, closing loopholes or deductions,” Sperling said on “This Week.” “That’s just an unreasonable position.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that 750,000 people, federal workers and private sector workers dependent on federal spending, could be laid off because of sequestration.
While government agencies begin to issue furlough notices and figure out how to implement the spending cuts with the least harm, Obama has urged lawmakers on both sides to come up with a solution.