News Column

Washington Continues Its Budgetary Squabbles

February 6, 2013

Ken Newton

Democrats and Republicans in Washington accused each other Tuesday of lacking seriousness in trying to find a way out of the nation's fiscal morass.

"We can't just cut our way to prosperity," President Obama said.

"I hope President Obama will start by proposing a responsible budget," Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said.

The remarks came on a day when the president called for a deferral of economy-damaging sequestration budget cuts, set to take effect on March 1, and when the Congressional Budget Office released a "Budget and Economic Outlook" that reflected only tempered optimism.

Mr. Obama, in remarks to reporters at the White House, said an upswing in the American economy could stall with "more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington."

He urged Congress, short of finding an all-encompassing solution in the coming three weeks, to pass a smaller package of tax reforms and spending cuts that would delay the sequester for a few months.

Mr. Blunt, a Republican, took a dim view of the president's proposal.

"Yet once again, his answer to our economic challenges is to call for tax increases instead of spending restraint," the Missourian said in a statement.

"Senate Republicans have offered alternatives to the sequester, and House Republicans have passed two bills outlining viable replacements. What we need now is presidential leadership."

The sequester, across-the-board cuts totaling $1.1 trillion over 10 years, came about as a provision in the Budget Control Act approved by Congress in August 2011.

Both of Missouri's senators, Mr. Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill, voted "yea" on the measure as amended by the House. Republican U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, of Missouri's 6th District, and Lynn Jenkins, of Kansas' 2nd District, voted to approve the measure in the House.

Tuesday's CBO report said the United States' economic growth will remain slow the remainder of this year, with an acceleration after that. It forecast a budget deficit of $845 billion.

The report also pointed out that if the nation's jobless rate remains above 7.5 percent through 2014, as predicted, it will be the longest period above that level in the last 70 years.

Ms. Jenkins told reporters on Tuesday that "a group of adults" had developed legislation, the Require a PLAN Act, to address budget deficits. She noted that the House has produced budgets the last two years that pointed toward balancing the budget and eliminating the national debt.

"We challenge the Senate Democrats to do the same. They haven't prepared a budget, of course, in four years," the Kansan said. "And the president, we hope he takes off his Superman cape and sends up a serious plan."

The Require a PLAN Act would compel the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress. Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, made a floor speech calling the legislation "a political messaging bill."

The lawmaker added, "It does nothing to solve the most immediate problem we are now facing, that is, the looming sequester and all the uncertainty it is causing."

Source: (c)2013 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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