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Sequester Has GOP in a Tizzy

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has accused the White House of attempting to keep defense contractors in the dark about the possibility of impending funding cuts.

“What a perfect summary of this administration’s approach to the economy and jobs over the past three and a half years. ... The private sector’s doing just fine. It’s the government that needs help. That’s the message the administration’s sending,” he said.

Republicans also pointed to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s co-sponsorship of the Forewarn Act, which would have strengthened requirements that employers notify employees of impending layoffs.

“The least employers can do when they’re anticipating layoffs is to let workers know they’re going to be out of a job and a paycheck with enough time to plan for their future,” Obama said in a 2007 press release.

“Typical politician, promises to close WARN Act loopholes and then creates a big one for himself,” a GOP aide said.

Democrats and the White House, however, have repeatedly charged the GOP with running from the deal they voted for to resolve last year’s debt limit crisis. That deal was precipitated by Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) demand for spending cuts as the price of avoiding what would have been a historic default on the debt.

The sequester “was created with overwhelming Republican support and is a Republican initiative,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday. “It is a Republican product that they are now wringing their hands and saying, ‘we really didn’t mean it.’”

An administration official also dismissed Republican complaints about the WARN Act, saying that the DOL issued straightforward guidance based on the law, and that there’s no reason the cuts should happen.

“Right now Congressional Republicans are trying to get out of what they agreed to because they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans than make tough choices needed to reduce the deficit — even if it risks big cuts in our military and domestic priorities,” the official said. “The president disagrees and will continue to urge Congress to act to avoid these devastating cuts.”

Republican leaders deny culpability for the defense sequester, saying that the White House insisted on the defense cuts as part of the deal.

“We passed it reluctantly, at your urging, after receiving a commitment that the president and the Democratic leadership in the Senate would work with Republicans to avert the sequester by enacting a deficit reduction package built on pro-growth tax reform and much-needed changes to strengthen and stabilize our entitlement programs,” House GOP leaders wrote in a letter Wednesday. They also offered to return to Washington, D.C., in August to cut a deal.

But one of their own undercut leadership’s argument.

“My party has their fingerprints all over it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News on Wednesday. “It was the Republican leadership who agreed with the concept that if the super committee failed, let’s have a decimating of the Defense Department as one of the consequences. The party of Ronald Reagan would have never allowed that to happen.”

Graham has been urging contractors to start sending out layoff notices to force Congress to act. And Labor’s guidance does not appear to preclude them from doing so if they choose.

At the Armed Services hearing, Republicans complained that defense contractors were being left in a tough spot and national security was being put at risk.

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