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When the House and Senate return from recess in September, lawmakers will only have until Jan. 2, 2013, to pass a spending bill that eliminates $1.2 trillion or more from the federal deficit ....
Congress on Aug. 1 convened yet another hearing examining the potential implications of the sweeping budget cuts headed for Washington, but in this case unusually partisan comments from a White House official sparked fierce debate over who’s to blame for sequestration.
In a House Armed Services Committee hearing that stretched nearly three hours, lawmakers clashed with Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients after Zients blamed Congress for the potentially disastrous fallout looming ahead once sequestration takes effect. Close to an hour and a half of the hearing involved near-unintelligible shouting matches, mainly between Zients and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).
In a particularly hostile exchange, Forbes pressed Zients on whether he believes “draconian defense cuts” are a sensible way to drive agreement between the two parties on Capitol Hill. Zients in turn pointed the finger at Congress.
Zients warned that if sequestration does go into effect, its occurrence in the middle of the fiscal year could mean that cuts estimated at 10 percent for the Defense Department and 8 percent for the rest of the government could end up being as high as 14 percent.
The bickering went well beyond just sequestration, with arguments ensuing over tax rates, President Obama’s 2013 budget and other unrelated issues.
At the end, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) apologized to Zients and Carter for what he deemed to be a waste of their time.
"I'm sorry that we dragged you from your governing responsibilities into this spectacle," Johnson said.
The mindset of DOD officials is that, despite faltered efforts by lawmakers to find a remedy for the harsh automatic cuts scheduled to begin Jan. 2, they still believe Congress will find an alternative solution, the story said.
The DOD is working closely with the Office of Management and Budget, but “we have not begun any planning efforts," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col Melinda Morgan said in the story.
“They only applied sequestration figures at the account level,” a HASC staffer complained about the report on Friday, noting that “the language in the law said that we need to receive information at the program, project and activity level.” Behind the bickering, though, members of Congress are laying the groundwork for post-election negotiations to avert the across-the-board budget cuts. Kelly Ayotte, who’s emerged as a key GOP voice on the issue, is “involved in sequestration discussions,” according to her spokeswoman, Liz Johnson. And Carl Levin told reporters last week he’s “involved in discussions.”