Liberals push budget conference to scrap sequester

Anne Wernikoff

Liberal Democrats are delivering a simple message to the budget conference committee: end the sequester.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Tuesday that it fell to budget conferees to come up with a way to replace those damaging automatic spending cuts, and made clear that they did not think keeping those cuts was written in stone.

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“It’s not like the motions of the planets or something,” Harkin said. “This is something we did to ourselves and we can undo it.”

“What our message to the conferees has to be is: do no harm,” added DeLauro. “These sequester cuts are a government shutdown in slow motion.”

Their push was accompanied by a new study released by NDD United, a coalition of groups opposing cuts to nondiscretionary defense spending. The study highlighted the range of ways those programs impact Americans’ everyday lives, and how they have been negatively impacted by sequester cuts. The fiscal 2014 budget will be hit by $91 billion of automatic cuts if the sequester is not replaced.

Budget conferees have until Dec. 13 to come up with a compromise, but so far appear to be struggling with the fundamental questions that have split the parties in recent years. Many Democrats would like to see much of the sequester spending cuts replaced with increased revenue via tax increases, while Republicans have insisted they want to keep the sequester level at a minimum, and are resistant to any revenue hikes without accompanying reforms to entitlement programs.

But Harkin argued Tuesday that entitlements shouldn’t just mean changes to programs relied upon by the lower and middle classes like Social Security and Medicare.

“What about the rich, who are entitled to certain tax advantages?” he said.