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National News

February 26, 2013

GOP, Democrats plan to propose sequester changes

WASHINGTON — In a last-minute bid to minimize the most painful impacts of federal spending cuts — and perhaps blame — Republicans this week will propose allowing the government to choose where to cut.

They plan to introduce proposals to allow flexibility while maintaining the overall level of cuts mandated by a 2011 law.

The proposal is in response to the Obama administration’s repeated complaint that the law doesn’t allow managers the flexibility to shift the reductions from such areas as teachers or programs to help female victims of violence. It’s also a move to shelter the GOP from blame should the cuts cause widespread pain.

“As a leader, he should want as much flexibility as he can get from Congress,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. “When did he ever go to his Cabinet secretaries, his agency heads and say, ‘What would be the least painful … way?’ “

Democrats criticized the proposal, however, saying it would lock in the overall level of cuts — $85 billion for this fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over 10 years — which they argue would hurt the economy. They’ll propose smaller spending reductions supplemented by tax increases.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans want us to compromise before our neighbors, friends and family members get pink slips or notices that they can only work for a few days a week this month,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Both proposals are expected to be unsuccessful in a divided Congress, leaving lawmakers scrambling to act just days before the cuts are to start taking effect. As of Monday, the two sides were not negotiating. President Barack Obama will travel Tuesday to Newport News, Va., to talk about the impact of defense cuts.

The reductions — known inside the Beltway as sequestration — stem from a compromise between both parties to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011. Both sides agreed to the automatic cuts as a doomsday scenario to force them to find a more palatable way to reduce projected budget deficits. They did not find an alternative, however.

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