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House Panel Votes on Sequester

Budget Committee Vote to Undo Automatic Spending Cuts Is Preview of Talking Points

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan awaits the arrival of ranking member Chris Van Hollen before the panel began consideration of a measure Monday that would pre-empt across-the-board spending cuts set to begin in 2013.

The House Budget Committee on Monday approved a plan to replace across-the-board spending cuts slated to begin next year, laying down a marker in an election year for how Republicans would roll back the sequester.

The committee voted 21-9 along party lines to approve a reconciliation package that would replace most of the $109 billion in spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 2.

They would be replaced with $18.5 billion in savings in fiscal 2013 and $261.5 billion over 10 years, according to the GOP-led plan.

The House will likely pass the proposal Thursday on another largely party-line vote.

But the House floor is as far as the proposal is likely to travel, as Senate Democrats have refused take up the House GOP’s  plan that deviates from last year’s Budget Control Act, which set spending levels at $1.047 trillion.

Instead, Monday’s hearing previewed the parties’ talking points for the end-of-year battle over how — or whether — to undo the sequester, which critics on both sides of the aisle believe could be harmful to national security.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said during the hearing that the sequester cuts, agreed to in a deal to increase the debt ceiling last year, are inflexible and arbitrary.

“Despite our differences, we again find ourselves in strong bipartisan agreement that the sequester is bad policy and ought to be replaced,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “That’s why this committee and this House passed a responsible budget and why we’re here today to meet our legal and moral obligation to lead.”

The sequester was put into effect under the terms of the Budget Control Act when the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to offer an alternative.

Republicans unanimously fell in line with the proposal, despite the fact that two GOP committee members — Reps. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Justin Amash (Mich.) — had previously voted against the House budget that set the process in motion.

In a Sunday e-newsletter, Huelskamp said he does not agree with a plan to roll back the sequester because it required cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“I believe that we have to follow through on the planned cuts, as the cuts were a condition of raising the debt limit; taxpayers have the debt, but no cuts yet,” he wrote. There will more than likely be other Republicans of the same opinion, which could mean the GOP loses some of its Members’ votes on the House floor.

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