GOP senator: Sequester is going to happen

Sunday, February 17, 2013 - 2:17pm

Republican Sen. John Barrasso said Sunday the country should be prepared for the sequester and its massive spending cuts to kick in next month, despite Democrats' proposal last week to avert it.

"Let me be very clear - and I'd say this to the president as I say it to you - these spending cuts are going to go through on March 1," the senator from Wyoming said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The across-the-board cuts aimed to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade were supposed to be triggered at the beginning of the year. In the scaled-back fiscal cliff bill, however, Congress managed to postpone the cuts by two months.

With less than two weeks to go, lawmakers face another countdown before the largely dreaded cuts are scheduled to begin. Senate Democrats on Thursday proposed a $110 billion measure to once again delay the cuts.

Democrats want to replace the budget cuts, which Pentagon officials say will have drastic effects on the military, with a combination of increased tax revenue from millionaires through the closing of loopholes, ending agriculture subsidies, and reducing defense spending after the war in Afghanistan ends.

But Barrasso, along with other Republicans in the Senate, was not so pleased with the proposal, especially the provision dealing with tax revenue.

"Taxes are off the table," he told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "The American people need to know tax cuts are off the table and the Republican Party is not in any way going to trade spending cuts for a tax increase."

The senator said there are "much better ways to do these budget cuts," though he did not mention specific proposals.

President Barack Obama vowed during his re-election campaign that the sequester will not happen, and he called on Congress earlier this month to pass a short-term measure to put off the cuts.

But when his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, was questioned about it Sunday morning, McDonough sounded less certain the sequester would be prevented.

"I sure hope it doesn't (happen)," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

To "ensure" the cuts don't take place, McDonough said, the president "will continue to make very reasonable and balanced proposals, as he has time and time again."

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York sounded optimistic about the issue.

"I think that Democrats have the high ground both substantively and politically and we will win on this issue," he said on "State of the Union."

He argued Republicans have no choice but to "come on board."

"Their arguments are untenable and don't meet the favor of hardly anyone other than themselves and the few whose special interests they're protecting," he added.

--
CNN's Ted Barrett and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

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