News Column

White House Turns up Pressure on GOP Over Sequester Cuts

Feb. 25, 2013

Todd Spangler

White House

With $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to go into effect Friday, White House officials on Sunday ratcheted up the pressure on congressional Republicans, issuing a set of state-by-state reports detailing the impact on jobs and services.

Nationally, tens of thousands of kids would lose Head Start services, Customs and Border Patrol hours would be cut and mental health funding would be reduced, according to the reports. The cuts would affect everything from national parks to food inspections to small-business loans.

In Michigan, 10,000 Defense Department workers would face one-day-a-week furloughs -- more than initially believed -- and the state would lose $22 million in school funding, putting 300 teacher and aide jobs at risk.

"This is going to have very real impact on people's lives and people's communities," said White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, who added that he understood the skepticism of some Americans that, with past funding crises averted, that this one was real.

"Are all these things going to go in effect on the first day? No," he said. But people will feel the result of the cuts, which when fully implemented "will be incredibly disruptive to their lives, to their communities."

Michael Steele, spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, said Republicans in the House "have voted -- twice -- to replace President Obama's sequester with smarter spending cuts.

"The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it," Steele said Sunday.

On Sunday, the Free Press took a comprehensive look at the potential impact of the sequester -- the process in which $85 billion would be trimmed from federal spending between now and Sept. 30 -- noting that reductions could potentially hit defense contractors, teachers, students, shippers, automakers and more.

Reductions at the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies could lead to delayed flights and longer security lines; funding for scientific research at local universities could be slashed.

But there still seemed to be little likelihood of a compromise in advance of Friday's deadline.

President Barack Obama continued to call on Republicans to accept an offer to combine some spending cuts with raising taxes on the wealthy by limiting deductions and closing some loopholes.

Republicans continue to stand their ground that more spending cuts -- not increased tax revenue -- are called for.

Republicans have been far from unified in their response to the pending sequester, however.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, has argued that it's actually too small a cut and that overall spending will continue to increase.

And last week, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said there are better ways to implement a reduction but that Obama only appears out to "frighten Americans."

White House officials said while the effects may not be felt immediately, they are real. In Michigan, they could include:

--About $20.3 million less in education funds that support 240 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities.

--Reduced funding that would result in about 4,400 fewer children in the state receiving vaccines for measles, mumps and other diseases.

--A $1.8-million reduction in funds that help provide meals for seniors.

For information on the potential cuts in Michigan and elsewhere, go to freep.com.

Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or tspangler@freepress.com.

More Details: At risk

Samples of what Michigan stands to lose if the sequestration takes effect:

--TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS: $22-million approximate loss for primary and secondary education, which could lead to teacher cuts. Plus, $20.3-million approximate cut for about 240 teachers and staff who work with children with disabilities in schools.

--HEAD START: Approximately 2,300 children would lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start services.

--ENVIRONMENT : $5.9-million approximate cut for clean water, air quality and other pollution-prevention efforts. Another $1.5?million in grants for fish and wildlife protection also cut.

--MILITARY: Approximately 10,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed. Plus, $14-million approximate cut for Army base operation funding.

--LAW ENFORCEMENT : $482,000 approximate cut for grants that aid police, prosecution, courts and other crime prevention efforts.

--JOBS: $1.7-million approximate cut for job search assistance, affecting about 54,400 people.

--DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Up to $209,000 in cuts for services that help victims of domestic violence.

--NUTRITION: $1.8-million approximate cut in meals for seniors.

See a complete list and a state-by-state comparison at freep.com

What is the sequester?

In summer 2011, Republicans in Congress and the White House were split over raising the debt ceiling, a necessary move if the nation was to continue paying its bills.

Ultimately, an agreement was made that included a sequester, a series of year-by-year spending cuts totaling more than $1 trillion over nine years. The deal was: If Congress and President Barack Obama could not come up with an agreement by Jan. 2 of this year, those cuts would automatically begin, split almost evenly between the defense budget and nondefense domestic programs.

Social Security, Medicare and security spending were largely protected, as were active duty members of the military.

No deal, of course, was reached. But as part of a deal to raise taxes on certain high-income earners this year, the deadline for avoiding the sequester was delayed from Jan. 2 to March 1 -- Friday. It also reduced some of the first-year spending cuts, bringing them down to about $85 billion between March 1 and Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Barring a deal, those cuts -- indiscriminately applied to most federal budgets -- will begin Friday, though the effects could take months to feel.



Source: (c)2013 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services


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