McConnell: Sequester will happen
By Erik Wasson
02/12/13 03:14 PM ET
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that last-minute partisan moves by Senate Democrats to replace $85 billion in looming automatic cuts mean those cuts will go into effect.
“It is pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect,” McConnell said.
“I see no evidence that the House plans to deal with this matter before the end of the month. As you indicated, the majority is going to offer a proposal. I anticipate that we will have an alternative proposal. That however doesn’t lead to a solution, that just leads to a couple of votes,” he added.
McConnell was reacting to an announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Tuesday that Democrats would unveil a sequester replacement by the end of this week for votes in the final hours before the March 1 sequester deadline.
Reid told reporters the Democratic bill will be half spending cuts and half tax increases.
McConnell said “the tax issue is over.” He argued that in passing the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which set up the sequester, Congress had pledged to replace the sequester only with spending cuts.
The BCA set up a supercommittee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, through spending cuts or tax increases. McConnell argued Tuesday that with its failure, Congress has committed only to doing spending cuts.
“I think we ought to keep the commitment we made….If the supercommittee failed, these reductions were made without raising taxes,” he said.
McConnell has emerged as the GOP’s closing negotiator in all the major fiscal battles of the last two years. Talks between McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden set up the BCA and also resolved the "fiscal cliff" tax fight on New Year’s Eve.
The minority leader said he is not interested in rescuing the situation in the hours before the March 1 deadline hits.
“Read my lips: I am not interested in an eleventh-hour negotiation,” he said.
“There is an eerie similarity here, isn’t there, to previous occurrences,” he noted. “Take no action, go right up to the deadline, and have an eleventh-hour negotiation.”
Reid and Senate Democrats were not far enough along in finalizing their sequester replacement to discuss it at party lunches on Tuesday. Senators expect to be briefed on a package on Thursday.
One issue is how to write a section cutting farm subsidies known as direct payments. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told The Hill she is in talks on the language so that the sequester bill does not hurt her effort to pass a five-year farm bill.
The rest of Reid’s approximately $120 billion proposal is said to involve imposing a higher minimum tax on millionaires—known as the Buffett Rule—and allowing some targeted defense cuts to take place among other changes.
“The bills being drafted will include equal amounts of revenue and cuts, because Democrats believe the right way to reduce the deficit is to target waste and abuse by pairing smart spending cuts with closing tax loopholes, asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute more,” Reid told reporters.
Reid said that he will have a meeting on the sequester with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week.