House to vote on requiring Obama to find alternative to sequester cuts

The House will vote next week on legislation that would require President Obama to submit a plan to replace the sequestration cuts ahead of the November election.

The legislation would also serve as a vehicle to repeal the sequester in 2013, provided that the House-passed sequestration reconciliation plan or similar legislation were to become law, which is unlikely to occur before November.

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The “National Security and Job Protection Act,” sponsored by Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), was a new measure included on the House Majority Leader’s legislative calendar on Friday. The bill says that the sequestration cuts to defense spending go too far and would harm national security, arguing that alternatives must be found.

While the still-unnumbered bill could get the votes to pass the House, it’s unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the bill will focus floor debate in the House on sequestration and the cuts to national defense when Congress returns next week, something that House Republicans are eager to talk about.

Republicans have actively sought to blame sequestration on President Obama, and a book released next week by Bob Woodward that details the debt-limit deal negotiations could provide more ammunition, as excerpts have suggested the idea for sequestration came from the White House.

The GOP has complained that Senate Democrats and the president have not come out with their own plan to avert the impending automatic cuts, while the House has passed a Republican plan already.

The defense cuts under sequestration have become part of the presidential race, as Mitt Romney has criticized Obama multiple times for harming the military by allowing the cuts to become law.

President Obama has said that Congress — including a majority of Republicans — voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which allowed for sequestration to become law after the supercommittee failed to reach a deal on deficit reduction. Obama has called on lawmakers to compromise and find a solution to avert the sequester cuts, which would total $109 billion in 2013.

The $109 billion in cuts are scheduled to hit on Jan. 2 unless Congress can pass a law to undo them.

House Republicans argue that they have already passed a bill to fix sequestration, the reconciliation act from GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which reverses the automatic cuts in 2013 for both defense and non-defense spending and replaces them with cuts elsewhere to both discretionary and mandatory spending, but not defense.

Democrats rejected the GOP proposal to replace sequestration because it does not include new revenues. They say that Republicans are blocking any deal on sequestration by refusing to agree to tax increases for the wealthy.

While both parties want to undo sequestration, the disagreement over taxes has prevented them from acting, and nothing is expected to move until after the election.

Congress did pass a law requiring the Obama administration to submit a report on how sequestration was implemented, but the White House missed the Friday deadline to send the report to Congress. The White House says it will complete the report next week.

— Erik Wasson contributed.