White House threatens to veto GOP bill aimed at stopping defense cuts

The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto a Republican bill meant to force the president to replace $55 billion in spending cuts to the Pentagon's budget. 

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In a statement, the White House said the bill — set to reach the House floor as soon as Thursday — was unconstitutional because it would force the president to meet specific deficit-reduction targets set out in the bill.

It also said the bill was unbalanced because it would not allow for tax increases on the wealthy and would force spending cuts to other programs. 

Finally, it argued the bill would break the agreements reached in last summer's bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, which triggered automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs slated to begin in January. 

“The bill's unbalanced approach breaks the agreement reached in the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and fails the test of fairness and shared responsibility,” the statement of administration policy said.

“The bill also rejects any effort to achieve deficit reduction by asking the most fortunate Americans to pay their fair share,” the White House said. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), would impose $19 billion in discretionary cuts in 2013 and force the president to submit a proposal to replace $55 billion in automatic defense cuts to be implemented in January. It does not address the rest of the $1.2 trillion in cuts triggered by the debt supercommittee's failure in 2011.

“H.R. 6365, which contains no elements of compromise, fails to replace the entire sequester in FY 2013, fails to eliminate any of the reductions beyond FY 2013, and fails to ask the most fortunate Americans to pay their fair share,” the White House said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) criticized the White House veto threat shortly after it was issued, saying it fully illustrated how the administration has so far dropped the ball on the sequester.

"We have repeatedly asked the White House to work with us to replace the sequester, meet us halfway or to present a plan," Cantor said in a statement. "Instead, the White House has failed to take any reasonable and responsible steps to avoid this grave threat to the future of our nation." 

This post was updated at 5:35 p.m.

Bernie Becker contributed.

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