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Republicans hit Obama on pending defense cuts

This news story was published on September 16, 2012.
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By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON—Republicans on Saturday hammered President Barack Obama over looming cuts to defense spending, saying the president has shown a “failure to lead” and done nothing to protect the military from being “hollowed” out by spending reductions.

“The president himself has opposed or disregarded every attempt we’ve made to work with him on a solution,” said Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., delivering the GOP weekly address.

Obama and Hill Republicans, including West, agreed last year to slash spending on defense and domestic programs if they could not reach a broader compromise on how to reduce the deficit. Both parties have said they want to avoid the cuts, scheduled to begin to take effect in January. A White House report released Friday said the estimated $110 billion in spending reductions would be “deeply destructive” to basic government functions.

Negotiations on a deal, however, are on the back burner as the parties campaign and use the impending budget battle as political fodder.

The Republican-led House voted this week for a second time on a proposal aimed at thwarting the cuts to the Pentagon only, shifting additional burden onto domestic programs. Obama has rejected that approach, saying it doesn’t meet his goals for balanced deficit reduction. The bill, sponsored by West, is expected to die in the Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats.

“President Obama’s failure to lead is inexcusable on its face, but what makes it even more so is the fact that this ‘sequester’ was his administration’s idea in the first place,” West said Saturday, using the technical term for the budget cuts.

West was repeating a claim in author Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics,” which asserts that the idea for creating loathsome, across-the-board cuts as a way to push lawmakers into a deal came from the White House. Republicans have seized on that in an effort to lay the blame on the president.

The White House, however, points out that a so-called “sequester” has been used in past budget deals and was agreed to and voted for by GOP leaders and dozens of rank-and-file Republicans.

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