Washington stumbling toward automatic budget cuts

With just over two weeks until $85 billion in across the board budget cuts are set to hit all corners of the federal budget, the blame game is in full bloom in Washington, D.C., as this week's State of the Union Address seemingly did nothing to push lawmakers any closer to a deal on that budgetary issue.

"The President oughta be forthcoming with a plan to replace his own sequester," said Speaker John Boehner, trying to point the finger one way down Pennsylvania Avenue.

When asked when he would move a bill in the House before March 1 to deal with the automatic cuts, Boehner said bluntly, "It's time for the Senate to do its job."

Republicans argue that  - and they are correct on this point - two times in 2012 the House approved a plan to shift the sequester cuts away from the military, and that the Senate never acted on that legislation.

So far, while the President and Democrats have talked about what they would or would not accept in a bid to either further delay or do away with the scheduled cuts, no detailed plan has been released by the Democrats - that may change on Thursday.

Meanwhile, hearings will continue on Thursday on the automatic cuts, as three Cabinet secretaries and a top White House budget official will testify on what the cuts would mean to the federal government.

"I have been using the word 'devastating' for 16 months now," said Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who will appear on Capitol Hill for a third straight day at a sequester hearing.

But after a fairly tame hearing in the Senate on Tuesday, the heat was turned up on Carter and the military defense chiefs on Wednesday by House members, some of whom vented their frustration at the lack of planning for this possibility by the Pentagon.

"We heard over and over when we were asking you guys what's the impact - 'We're not planning for it,'" said an aggravated Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), whose district borders on the Hampton Roads area.

"You are part of the problem," said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) to the military brass.

"America deserves better," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who lectured his colleagues and the military brass in the firm voice of a school guidance counselor.

"And we're about to take a week's vacation, right as sequestration is about to hit - how does that make sense?" Cooper added.

Yes, you read that right.

With just over two weeks until the March 1 deadline, the House and Senate are both scheduled to be out of town next week for the President's Day break.

That means when lawmakers return on February 25, they would have four days to reach a deal.

As of now, many rank in file members think the sequester is going to kick in, and then Congress will duke it out for several weeks to try to target the cuts, and avoid an across the board reduction.

About the Author