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GOP Sees Politics in White House Push to Delay Layoff Notices

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Kelly Ayotte is one of a handful of Republicans raising questions about the Obama administration's handling of the impending sequester, which could force defense contractors to lay off employees.

Congressional Republicans are indignant over last week's White House decision to encourage a delay in government contractor layoff notifications that could be triggered by automatic spending cuts set to begin in January.

"As Americans learned last week in a Friday evening news dump, the White House is pressuring American defense contractors to avoid issuing layoff notices relating to the imminent threat from the president's sequester," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a release today marking 90 days until the cuts - also known as sequestration - go into effect.

Boehner said that cuts, which would be split between security and non-security spending, would hurt national security efforts and charged that President Barack Obama has shown no leadership in dealing with the impending issue.

"This is a White House in denial about the consequences of its own irresponsible actions," Boehner said.

The Speaker also noted that the House passed legislation in May that would maintain the same level of cuts at $109 billion set for fiscal 2013, but would replace the $55 billion reduction that would hit defense spending with cuts elsewhere in the budget, including cuts to mandatory spending programs such as food stamps and other social programs.

The Senate has not passed that bill nor any similar measure. Democrats were critical of the proposal for cutting social programs.

"The Republican-led House, by contrast, has acted to protect our national security by passing legislation to replace the president's devastating sequester with responsible reforms and spending cuts," Boehner said. "President Obama and his do-nothing Democratic Senate have refused to pass the House bill - or any other bill - to address the looming defense cuts."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also weighed in on the issue Monday.

"For an Administration that talks a lot about transparency, it is disappointing that they apparently think it is more important to protect their political interests than give hard working families any indication that they might in fact lose their job in 60 to 90 days due to inaction by the President and Senate Democrats," Cantor said in a release.

Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, employers with at least 100 employees are generally required to provide written notice to affected employees 60 days before ordering certain plant closings or mass layoffs if they are reasonably foreseeable. The sequester is scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, so any layoff notices would have to go out early next month, days before the Nov. 6 elections, a scenario that will be ripe for political saber-rattling.

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