Reid will try to replace sequester with war savings from Afghan drawdown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday that the Senate will begin considering a replacement for most of the $85 billion automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

The cuts went into effect on March 1 after the White House and Congress could not agree on a replacement. The White House insisted on using some tax increases while Republicans refused.

{mosads}Senate Democrats will now move a bill using war savings to pay for the sequester. 

In 2013, the Pentagon has said it has saved some $81 billion that it would otherwise have spent on the war in Afghanistan if not for President Obama’s decision to drawdown the U.S. troop presence.

Republicans have derided war savings as a budget gimmick in the past. 

Reid is acting as public concern over the cuts has begun to emerge due to airport delays.

“So I think we should do something about sequestration. It’s important we do. We should do what was in one of the Ryan budgets; that is, use the overseas contingency fund to delay the implementation of sequestration. We could do it for five months. During this five-month period, we could come up with something that was longer term,” Reid said.

“There’s about $650 billion there; let’s use it, a small part of that, to take care of sequestration for the next five months. We’re going to move to that later this afternoon,” Reid said.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders called on the White House to agree to sensible cuts in order to turn off the furloughs for air traffic controllers that are causing delays. 

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said that Reid would begin the “Rule 14” process to put the bill on the Senate calendar Tuesday, setting up a vote on opening debate as early as Thursday.

Republicans were already lining up to reject the Reid war savings approach.

“We need a long term solution that will fix these damaging sequestration cuts and provide more stability in the budgets for critical federal programs. Continual, temporary band aids and political posturing such as this simply compound the real problem, and bring us no closer to finding meaningful solutions,” said Jennifer Hing, spokesperson for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office said that Reid mischaracterized Ryan’s budgets in his comments on Tuesday. His spokesman said that Ryan’s budgets do not count war savings.

“Sen. Reid is absolutely incorrect. Not a single penny of claimed spending reductions in any of the recent budgets put forward by House Republicans come from this gimmick,” spokesman William Allison said.

The sequester was triggered under the August 2011 debt deal after the 2011 supercommittee failed to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. The new Reid bill would only address the first of nine years of automatic cuts to the budget.

Updated at 4:08 p.m. and 4:24 p.m..

Tags Harry Reid Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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