News Column

Top Obama Aide Backs Fiscal Cliff Debate Retort

Oct. 25, 2012

William March

In the argument over President Obama's statement that looming "sequestration" cuts were Congress' idea, the White House chief of staff said Wednesday it came from congressional Republicans, disputing an account by author Bob Woodward.

"There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger," said Jack Lew, the chief of staff. It "was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure at the end."

Lew, in Florida campaigning for Obama, made the comments in an interview with The Tampa Tribune. As both campaigns reach out to Florida's Jewish vote, Lew is making speeches to groups at synagogues.

The potential sequestration cuts are the result of a deal cut in Congress during last year's debate over raising the national debt ceiling. Republicans demanded moves toward balancing the budget in return for agreeing on a new ceiling, but Congress couldn't agree on such measures.

Democrats say that was because Republicans wouldn't accept any increases in government revenue as part of a deal. Instead, Congress set up a committee to propose a budget-balancing measure, with massive budget cuts and tax increases to take effect if Congress refuses to reach an agreement by Jan. 1.

When Mitt Romney criticized Obama in their debate Monday over the looming cuts, which he said would "devastate" the U.S. military, Obama replied that it's "not something I proposed, it's something the Congress proposed."

"It will not happen," Obama added.

Woodward, the author and reporter renowned for breaking the Watergate story with The Washington Post, reported on sequestration in his new book, "The Price of Politics."

Citing anonymous sources that he says are extensive and reliable, Woodward said the idea of automatic budget cuts came from the White House. Specifically, Woodward named Lew, then director of the Office of Management and the Budget, and legislative affairs director Rob Nabors as the men who presented the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then to congressional Republicans.

Woodward recently told the website Politico that Obama was "mistaken" in his debate comment, but speculated that Obama may not have known the proposal came from his White House.



Source: (c)2012 Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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