Senate GOP blames Democrats for moving goalposts on sequestration deal

Senate Republicans are accusing Democrats of increasing their demands in a potential deal to stave off automatic defense cuts as lawmakers continue to work behind closed doors to reach a bipartisan solution.

Top Republicans have indicated a willingness to concede on closing certain tax loopholes in exchange for Democrats bending on certain domestic spending reductions, all to prevent drastic Pentagon budget cuts that members in both parties want to avoid.

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While neither side has made its offer public, both parties have made clear that any alternate sequester plan would have to address tax loopholes and revenue increases alongside spending cuts.

But Republicans in recent days have said Democrats are asking them to give even more on the revenue side.

“The goalposts are continually being moved,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday.

Those efforts by Senate Democrats should be "a matter of grave concern" for the White House, Cornyn said, adding that "hopefully cooler heads will prevail" as both sides seek out a solution to sequestration.

A deficit-reduction plan Cornyn crafted with fellow Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) to close certain tax loopholes and increase federal revenues was well-received by other Senate Republicans, according to the Texas Republican.

But Cornyn indicated that the insistence by Democrats on eliminating the George W. Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy and other reforms shunned by congressional Republicans has squandered any goodwill on the GOP side over including revenue increases in any alternate sequester plan.

"I’ve had maybe 200 conversations with different senators about different ways to address the issue of sequestration. So far all of them are going nowhere," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters Tuesday.

McCain, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), had been pressing the need for tax increases in any sequestration alternative being considered by their GOP colleagues.

For his part, McCain said the Cornyn-Toomey plan was the best shot Senate Republicans had at addressing the tax and revenue issues swirling about the ongoing sequestration debate.

"We all know there was agreement with Toomey and others that they would close loopholes and that there would then be ways of addressing that issue, [and] I agree with what Toomey was trying to do," McCain said.

The Arizona Republican did not weigh in on Cornyn's “goalpost” comment, but he did agree with Cornyn's criticism of the White House's lack of leadership during the political back-and-forth over sequestration.

Senate Armed Services Committee chief Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told the Hill on Tuesday he had discussed revenue increases with McCain and Graham, but did not go into detail on those talks.

Senate Democrats and Republicans are on the same page on "90 percent of the things" that need to be included in any potential alternate sequestration deal, including tax increases, according to Levin.

"There's a lot of things that can be agreed to," he told The Hill.