Duelling proposals to avert steep automatic
government spending cuts failed in the US Senate on Thursday, just
hours before the austerity measures were due to go into effect.
Two separate proposals advanced by Democrats and Republicans in the upper chamber of Congress failed to secure enough votes to advance, all but assuring the government spending cuts known as the sequester will be enacted Friday.
The so-called sequester would see 85 billion dollars cut from federal spending by the end of the year, with cuts coming equally from military and domestic programmes. President Barack Obama has warned the cuts would prove devastating to the economy, but many Republicans think the White House has overblown the impact the cuts will have.
Both bills considered by the Senate Thursday would have replaced the sequester legislation. The Democrats' would have ushered in more taxes to close the US deficit, while the Republican bill would have allowed Obama to shift the cuts around to avoid too large an ax falling on any one programme.
The White House had dismissed the Republican plan as political posturing, claiming it would still hurt middle-class Americans while stopping short of increasing taxes on the wealthy.
The sides have been exchanging harsh words of blame in the lead up to the cuts.
"Rather than hash out the best way to replace sequestration, the conversation has instead revolved around who came up with the idea in the first place. The blame game is nothing but a sideshow," Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said. "The truth is both sides have their fingerprints on sequestration, but only one side is trying hard to solve it."
Republicans however pointed to Democrats as hoping the sequester would go into effect so they can blame the Republicans, and noted run-away spending needed to be seriously addressed.
Obama will meet with congressional leaders from both parties to discuss the cuts on Friday.
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