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Administration Officials, Lawmakers Jockey for Position on Sequester

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
LaHood, who has become an administration point man on the harmful effects of sequestration, denied suggestions that the consequences are being exaggerated.

“It’s really only two-cents on the dollar over the whole federal budget, but they’ve scrunched that down into seven months and highlight, or at least put most of the burden, on the Defense department,” Rogers said on ABC’s This Week, before suggesting that federal officials could find added efficiencies to trim the budget if given the option to do so legally. Coburn made a similar case.

But other Republican lawmakers rejected the idea of giving the administration more flexibility in making the budget cuts.

“I say to my Republican friends, if you want to just give the president flexibility in how to enact these cuts, then why don’t we just go home?” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also appearing on the CNN broadcast. “I am totally against that.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Coburn said the scale of the mandatory spending reductions has been exaggerated and there is plenty of room for cuts.

“We have tons — hundreds of billions of dollars of fat and waste and excess in the federal government and we ought to be about cutting some of it out,” Coburn said.

Speaking on the same program, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., pushed for a big deficit reduction deal to address long-term fiscal issues, but noted that some modifications to implementation of the sequester could be explored in the week ahead.

“I think right now the way this is set up there are going to be cuts in a lot of places, and there will be some flexibility, and I think we’re going to look at a number of things this week,” McCaskill said. “We’ve got a much bigger problem down the line in terms of reducing our debt than just what we face this week.”

Governors from both parties in Washington for National Governor’s Association meetings also made the rounds on Sunday programs to express concern about sequestration on their states and press the case for a deal between Congress and the White House. Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Democratic Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware appeared together on Fox.

“If we’re not careful, a tax increase on one can be a problem and severe cuts on the other end can be a problem,” Walker said, criticizing both parties for kicking the can down the road. “Our hope is between now and March 1, they’ll find a way to provide some better alternatives to the cuts in the sequester.”

Markell said many governors are concerned about the impact of the cuts on the economy.

“You know, I think a lot of us feel like we’re, after some very difficult years, we’re starting to come out of it,” Markell said. “Things are getting a little bit better, and unfortunately the sequester could put us right back where we were.”

Asked if he thought the sequester could lead to another economic recession, Markell replied, “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”

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