By Julian Pecquet - 02/24/13 03:02 PM EST
Deep cuts to the federal government will almost certainly take effect at the end of the week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Sunday, and that's not such a bad thing.
“Sequestration is a terrible way to cut spending – I don't disagree with that – but to not cut 2 and 1/2 percent out of the total budget over a year when it's twice the size it was 10 years ago? Give me a break,” Coburn, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There's easy ways to cut this money in ways the American people will never feel. What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending."
“It will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country,” he said.
Democrats and Republicans have been swapping blame for the pending cuts as the March 1 deadline looms without any sign of a deal to avert sequestration. Senate Democrats are expected to introduce legislation this week that would replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts over the next 10 years with a mix of cuts and tax hikes, but the Republican-controlled House has already rejected President Obama's calls for new tax revenues to offset some cuts.
The White House has sought to pressure Republicans by warning of the real-world effects of the sequester cuts.
The administration has said the cuts force teachers to be laid off and hurt the military's preparedness as well as force delays for air travelers.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), appearing on the same program, agreed that the cuts are likely to kick in, but said the fault lay with congressional Republicans.
“Unless the Republicans are willing to compromise, and do a balanced approach, I think it will kick in,” she said.
Coburn, who unlike McCaskill voted against the sequester proposal and the debt-ceiling increase last year, said the cuts in the coming year would be prorated and only add up to a little more than $40 billion. He said the federal government had the flexibility to deal with the cuts.
McCaskill, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, disagreed. The Pentagon has warned it will have to furlough 800,000 employees in the coming year if sequestration isn't avoided.
“There's no question that these cuts are going to be painful, and they are thoughtless,” she said. The deputy Defense secretary, she said, has warned that “even if we did some kind of flexibility move at the 11th hour, it's too little too late.”