Cuts at Hand, Senate Rejects Stopgap Plan
White House Retreats on Claim Of Airport Lines, Teacher Cuts
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pauses while meeting with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, to answer questions about the impending automatic spending cuts that take effect March 1. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Newport News, Va. With across-the-board spending cuts all but certain, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are staging a politically charged showdown designed to avoid public blame for any public inconvenience or disruption in government services that result. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., right, accompanied by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., faces reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, to talk about the impending automatic spending cuts that take effect March 1. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In a Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 file photo, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and GOP leaders meet with reporters to challenge President Obama and the Senate to avoid the automatic spending cuts set to take effect in four days, on Capitol Hill in Washington. As economic policy goes, experts say, the automatic spending cuts that kick in Friday, March 1, are a bad idea. From left to right are Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., joined by House Democratic women, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, to talk about the impending automatic spending cuts that take effect March 1. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses while meeting with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, to answer questions about the impending automatic spending cuts that take effect March 1. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Washington — Squabbling away the hours, the Senate swatted aside last-ditch plans to block $85 billion in broad-based federal spending reductions yesterday as President Obama and Republicans blamed each other for the latest outbreak of gridlock and the administration readied plans to put the cuts into effect.
So entrenched were the two parties that the Senate chaplain, Barry Black, opened the day’s session with a prayer that beseeched a higher power to intervene.
“Rise up, O God, and save us from ourselves,” he said of cuts due to take effect sometime today.
The immediate impact of the reductions on the public was uncertain, and the administration pulled back on its earlier warnings of long lines developing quickly at airports and teacher layoffs affecting classrooms.
On the Senate floor, a Republican proposal requiring Obama to propose alternative cuts that would cause less disruption in essential government services fell to overwhelming Democratic opposition, 62-38.
Moments later, a Democratic alternative to spread the cuts over a decade and replace half with higher taxes on millionaires and corporations won a bare majority, 51-49, but that was well shy of the 60 needed to advance. Republicans opposed it without exception.
In a written statement after the votes, Obama lambasted Republicans. “They voted to let the entire burden of deficit reduction fall squarely on the middle class,” he said.
He noted that he would meet with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House today, but no one is expecting action before the cuts begin taking effect. Obama said, “We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise. That’s how our democracy works, and that’s what the American people deserve.”
Said House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress: “Obama and Senate Democrats are demanding more tax hikes to fuel more ‘stimulus’ spending.”
Though furloughs are a fear for some, especially certain federal workers, there is little sign of business worry, let alone panic in the nation. Stocks declined slightly for the day after trading near record highs. And unlike the “fiscal cliff” showdown of two months ago, there are no deadlines for action to prevent tax increases from hitting nearly every American.
Still, there was talk of crisis.
“We have the opportunity to avoid the kind of calamity and disaster that is being threatened and is completely unnecessary,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who co-authored the Republican proposal.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said that was precisely what Democrats had tried to do by proposing the deferral of Pentagon cuts until U.S. combat troops have come home from Afghanistan in two years’ time.
At the same time, she said the Democrats had reasonably proposed replacing half of the pending cuts with higher taxes on “the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.”
In fact, the Democratic measure also included small increases for a variety of small programs such as biodiesel education, assistance for biomass crops and certification of organic foods.