WASHINGTON Feb 13 U.S. House of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, expressed
hope on Wednesday that automatic spending cuts could be averted
if President Barack Obama quickly comes up with an alternative.
Boehner made the comments a day after Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell said he expects the across-the-board
cuts, known as sequester, to begin on schedule on March 1.
Boehner, standing before a blinking sign reading "Countdown
to Obamaquester," said it is up to the president and his fellow
Democrats in the Senate to move quickly.
"Sequester is bad policy. It takes a meat axe approach to
government spending," Boehner, flanked by fellow House
Republican leaders, said at a news conference.
"I would hope that it would not happen," Boehner.
"It is incumbent upon the president and Senate Democrats to
show us their plan and stop the sequester from going into
place," the speaker said.
Senate Democrats are crafting a plan, with a mix of tax
hikes and spending cuts, that may be voted on by the chamber the
week after next.
But Senate Republicans could block it with a procedural
roadblock. Republicans contend that deficit reduction should be
limited to spending cuts without any tax hikes.
"Read my lips: I'm not interested in an eleventh-hour
negotiation," McConnell said.
"It's pretty clear to me that the sequester's going to go
into effect," McConnell said. "I have seen no evidence that the
House plans to act on this matter before the end of the month."
Sequester was set in motion in August 2011 as part of a
bipartisan deficit-reduction deal.
These cuts were supposed to be so draconian that Congress
would be inspired to replace them with more thoughtful ways of
reducing the budget deficit.
But Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on a
The cuts will be split evenly between military programs and
domestic discretionary spending, with the first seven months'
worth coming to about $85 billion if Congress fails to act
before March 1.
Boehner has declined to reintroduce legislation passed by
the House last year that would shift the cuts from the military
to other domestic programs.
Instead, he has simply pinned blame for the looming cuts on
Obama, and argued that it is now up for the
Democratic-controlled Senate to act.