House to vote on requiring Obama to find alternative to sequester cuts

The House will vote next week on legislation that would require
President Obama to submit a plan to replace the sequestration cuts ahead of the
November election.

The legislation would also serve as
a vehicle
to repeal the sequester in 2013, provided that the House-passed
sequestration reconciliation plan or similar legislation were to become law,
which is unlikely to occur before November.

{mosads}The “National Security and Job Protection Act,” sponsored by
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), was a new measure included on the House Majority
Leader’s legislative calendar on Friday. The bill says that the sequestration cuts to defense spending go too far and would harm national security, arguing that alternatives must be found.

While the still-unnumbered bill could get the votes to pass
the House, it’s unlikely to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the bill will focus floor debate in the House on
sequestration and the cuts to national defense when Congress returns next week,
something that House Republicans are eager to talk about.

Republicans have actively sought to blame sequestration on
President Obama, and a book released next week by Bob Woodward that details the
debt-limit deal negotiations could provide more ammunition, as excerpts have
suggested the idea for sequestration came from the White House.

The GOP has complained that Senate Democrats and the
president have not come out with their own plan to avert the impending automatic cuts, while the
House has passed a Republican plan already.

The defense cuts under sequestration have become part of the presidential race, as Mitt Romney has criticized Obama multiple times for harming the military by allowing the cuts to become law.

President Obama has said that Congress — including a majority
of Republicans — voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which allowed for
sequestration to become law after the supercommittee failed to reach a deal on
deficit reduction. Obama has called on lawmakers to compromise and find a
solution to avert the sequester cuts, which would total $109 billion in 2013.

The $109 billion in cuts are scheduled to hit on Jan. 2 unless Congress can pass a law to undo them.

House Republicans argue that they have already passed a bill to fix sequestration, the reconciliation act from GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which reverses the automatic
cuts in 2013 for both defense and non-defense spending and replaces them with
cuts elsewhere to both discretionary and mandatory spending, but not defense.

Democrats rejected the GOP proposal to replace sequestration
because it does not include new revenues. They say that Republicans are
blocking any deal on sequestration by refusing to agree to tax increases for
the wealthy.

While both parties want to undo sequestration, the
disagreement over taxes has prevented them from acting, and nothing is expected to move until
after the election.

Congress did pass a law requiring the Obama administration
to submit a report on how sequestration was implemented, but the White House missed
the Friday deadline to send the report to Congress. The White House says it
will complete the report next week.

— Erik Wasson contributed.

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