GOP accuses Obama of ignoring impending sequestration cuts

Republican congressional leaders accused President Obama of holding defense and domestic spending “hostage” in order to raise taxes, attacking the White House for not proposing a solution to the sequestration cuts set to hit in January.

In a letter to Obama Friday, the top House and Senate Republican leaders said the White House was ignoring the threat of sequestration, calling on the president to work with Congress to find a solution to the $500 billion cuts each to defense and non-defense spending.

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The letter from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was the latest Republican effort to blame Obama for the looming cuts.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attacked Obama for the cuts to defense Friday as he made a campaign stop in Virginia, a military-heavy state.

“The sequester will have a significant impact on our national security and other domestic programs — such as medical research and special education — and yet the White House is now holding our troops and other important programs hostage in order to foist tax increases on small businesses,” the Republican congressional leaders wrote.

“Instead of ignoring the need to address this critical issue, we would respectfully request that you and your senior staff engage constructively with both parties to find common ground,” they said.

Democrats say that it’s Republicans who are preventing a solution to the sequester cuts by refusing to agree to tax increases.The White House has said it’s Congress's responsibility to find a solution to fix the cuts by agreeing to alternative deficit reduction that includes new revenues.

“The sequester was something that was actually passed with the strong support of Republicans, in both the House and the Senate,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One Friday.

“The President believes that we need to take action on a balanced approach to do something serious about our deficit challenges,” he said.

Most Democrats and Republicans agree that the sequester cuts need to be reversed, but the two sides disagree over how to find the alternative deficit reduction.

The cuts, part of last year’s Budget Control Act, went into effect after the congressional supercommittee failed to find more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction.

Republicans say that the Senate should take up their House-passed plan that would reverse the sequester through deeper spending cuts to other programs, but Democrats say that plan is a non-starter.

The GOP congressional leaders said that Obama is trying kick the issue down the road to keep it from becoming an issue in the presidential election.

“Rather than proposing to simply put more space between this problem and the election or offering tax increase proposals that face bipartisan congressional opposition, we hope you instead work with us to find a bipartisan solution before the end of the fiscal year,” they wrote.