House GOP demands Senate vote on sequester alternatives

House Republicans on Friday demanded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bring to the floor a plan to avoid massive defense budget cuts scheduled for this January.

In a sternly worded letter, House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) accused Reid and Senate Democrats of blocking a vote on a Republican-drafted plan to avoid the budget cuts under the so-called sequestration plan. 

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"We request that you immediately put forward your own plan or stop obstructing plans others have already offered," McKeon wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by 30 other House Republicans. 

"The time for rhetoric has passed. Resolution cannot wait until next month, or a lame-duck session, or even the next Congress," according to the California Democrat. "It is incumbent on you to bring [a plan] to the floor of your own chamber, pass it and allow us to move into conference." 

McKeon noted the House approved a spending-reduction plan drafted by Republicans back in May. That plan leaned heavily on cuts to social welfare programs to offset reductions to Defense Department coffers. 

Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have drafted their own plan to stave off defense spending cuts under sequestration for a year. 

"Yet the Senate has still not acted," McKeon said. 

Despite claims of obstructionism by Senate Democrats, GOP lawmakers in the House have shot down their fair share of Democratic proposals to avoid sequestration. 

House Republicans blocked a sequester plan proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and House Democrats in May. That plan would have closed the defense spending gap by implementing cuts to government farm subsidies and ending federal payouts to oil companies. 

That said, the Pentagon and White House panned the House plan passed in May, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling it a recipe for "confrontation [and] gridlock" if it ever moved to the Senate for a vote. 

President Obama has vowed to veto the House GOP plan if the Republican plan made it through the Senate and to the White House.

Democrats in both chambers have been adamant that any compromise on sequestration must include revenue increases or elimination of tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans. 

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, suggested in March that letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire would generate enough revenue to cover all the defense cuts outlined under sequestration. 

Republican lawmakers, though, have been reluctant to back efforts to allow the Bush-era tax cuts or other proposed changes to the tax code. 

That unified front among GOP lawmakers showed signs of cracking earlier this month, with McCain and Graham indicating they would be willing to concede to some tax increases as part of a possible sequester deal. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Senate Republicans would be willing to back changes to the tax code outlines in a plan drafted by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). 

But even then, Cornyn accused Democrats of pushing the GOP to give even more on the revenue side. “The goalposts are continually being moved,” Cornyn told The Hill on June 14. 

McCain reiterated that sentiment to reporters after coming out in favor of potential revenue increases or eliminating certain tax cuts.  

"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," he said that same day.