The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 23, 2013

Republican legislators discuss sequestration

JOHNSTOWN — The region’s two U.S. House of Representatives members, both Republicans, place the onus to avoid sequestration on President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

Reps. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, feel the GOP has taken adequate steps to avoid the across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including the military and social programs, set to begin on Friday. The Republican-held House passed two spending bills in 2012 that they believe would address the issue. Plus, Rothfus, a freshman who took office in January, blames Obama for creating the idea of sequestration when he, the House and Senate negotiated the Budget Control Act of 2011. The agreement allowed the federal government to increase the debt ceiling in order to avoid defaulting on its financial obligations.

“The Republicans moved,” said Rothfus, the 12th district’s representative. “They proposed an alternative last year. It has not been responded to.”

Shuster, the 9th district’s congressman, agrees.

“The House voted twice last year to replace the president’s sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our nation’s military and reduces the deficit,” Shuster said. “President Obama has refused to put forth an alternative plan and neither has the Democratic-controlled Senate. If the president opposes the House Republican plan, he should put forth an alternative that would protect our troops, our national security and our economy.”

Democratic Party leaders have heavily criticized the two GOP bills, saying they called for too many cuts to the social safety net and changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature piece of legislation.

The GOP’s most recent sequester replacement legislation, the Spending Reduction Act of 2012, expired in January at the end of the 112th Congress.

Senate Democrats proposed a one-year $110 billion package earlier this month. It called for increasing revenue by implementing the “Buffett Rule,” which would require millionaires to pay a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate. It also planned for reducing agriculture subsidies and cutting defense spending after the Afghanistan war concludes. The Democrats’ plan would allow sequestration to go into effect in 2014.

“The American people overwhelmingly support the approach Senate Democrats are taking, especially the ‘Buffett Rule,’ ” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “It’s simply unacceptable that the very wealthiest Americans can pay less in taxes as a share of their income than their secretaries and other middle class workers.”

Rothfus countered by saying, “You do not raise taxes in a slow economy.”

If no agreement is reached, sequestration calls for more than $1 trillion in cuts to be made from fiscal year 2013 through 2021. This year’s sequester would include $42.7 billion from defense, $28.7 billion from domestic discretionary spending, $9.9 billion from Medicare and $4 billion from other mandatory areas, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Sequestration was originally supposed to take place at the start of the new year, but the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 moved it to Friday.

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