Congress may thwart Obama’s vow that automatic spending cuts “will not happen” in 2013
President Obama’s statement that $109 billion in automatic spending cuts “will not happen” in 2013 isn’t matched by progress with lawmakers in Congress toward a deficit-cutting agreement to avert the reductions.
Obama made the prediction during Monday night’s presidential debate after Republican nominee Mitt Romney accused him of endangering the national defense by proposing “a combination” of budget cuts and “sequestration cuts” that would curb U.S. military spending by $1 trillion.
The automatic cuts in defense and nondefense spending are set to start in January if Congress doesn’t agree on a budget-cutting plan during a lame-duck session after the Nov. 6 election. Currently there no formal talks between congressional leaders and the president, though groups of lawmakers have discussed ideas for averting the automatic cuts.
In the debate, Obama replied to Romney that the automatic “sequester” of $109 billion in spending next year “is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”
The automatic spending cuts stem from legislation enacted in 2011 that appointed a bipartisan committee to find $1.5 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years. The law mandated $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over a decade if the panel failed – as it did – to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.
The law requires the spending cuts to address House Republicans’ demand for reductions to match an increase in the government’s borrowing authority.
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, questioned Obama’s assertion.
“If the sequester isn’t going to happen, as he says, will the president finally offer a plan to solve the problem?” Smith said in an email yesterday. “For the past year, the president has refused to show any leadership in resolving the sequester.”
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington yesterday that “what the president said last night was a reiteration of what his position has long been.”
A spending agreement has been held up in part by a dispute over the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, scheduled to expire Dec. 31. Obama wants to extend them for annual income of up to $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families, while letting them expire for income greater than those amounts.