Republicans pin sequester on Obama

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday sought to blame the process of sequestration on President Obama and Democrats.

Sequestration, which will lead to $1.1 trillion in automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense spending in January unless Congress acts to prevent them, were agreed to as part of last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling.

As the date for the cuts nears, lawmakers in both parties are growing more anxious over how the cuts would hit the economy.

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Boehner said Thursday that Republicans only agreed to the process of sequestration because of the demands of Obama and Democrats. He also faulted Obama for sabotaging the work of a supercommittee of lawmakers that sought to come up with an alternative budget-cutting plan.

“Remember one thing, we have this sequester because the President of the United States, for his own convenience, only wanted to deal with the debt limit once before the election,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference.

“And it was the president and the Majority Leader of the Senate [Harry Reid D-Nev.] who promised to work with us to make sure we got an outcome out of the super committee. They did nothing to help, matter of fact, I would argue they worked to undermine the work of the supercommittee, and thus we have the sequester.

“It is time for them to lead,” Boehner concluded.

Congress set up sequestration under last summer’s debt deal between Obama and the Republican Congress to put pressure on lawmakers to act to reduce the deficit. The package moved through the House and Senate with bipartisan support, though there were lawmakers in both parties that opposed it.

The automatic cuts were supposed to work as a threat to compel the supercommittee to act.

It was argued that the cuts would be so drastic, the supercommittee of lawmakers would be able to reach a deal to reduce deficits.

But the supercommittee did not reach a deal, and instead hit the stalemate other groups have hit when trying to come up with deep deficit-cutting plans.

Republicans resisted Democratic demands to include tax hikes in the package, and Democrats resisted Republican demands for entitlement reforms.

Lawmakers are particularly concerned about cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, and this week they heard a series of warnings from defense officials and former Vice President Dick Cheney about the effect of $500 billion in planned defense cuts.

The House on Wednesday joined the Senate in approving legislation that asks the Obama administration for details on how it would implement the planned cuts. Those votes also seem aimed at deflecting blame for the sequester from Congress to the administration.

“I think it's important for the Office of Management and Budget to come forward and outline to the American people just how they intend to implement the sequester -- because right now there are more unanswered questions than there are answered questions with regard to how the sequester will work and where the cuts will come from,” Boehner said Thursday.