With Sequester Looming, Congress Takes a Break
House Democrats suggested that if GOP leadership would put their plan up for a vote in the House, it would actually garner some Republican support and pass. "The only thing that's standing in the way of having 750,000 jobs lost is having a vote," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said yesterday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slammed for GOP leadership for putting the House in recess for a week before voting on the plan.
"We don't think there's any time to waste," she said yesterday. "Every minute counts, and it's really hard to explain to the American people [that] tomorrow we'll be leaving for more than a week when a deadline is looming. Sequester is out of the question."
McConnell, meanwhile, said that if Democrats were serious about averting the problem, their leaders in the Senate would have drafted legislation and carried it through the standard committee process last year.
"Instead they waited right up to the moment of crisis.. and then got together, not with the goal of finding a solution," he said, but to "make Republicans look like the bad guys."
"There won't be any easy off-ramps on this one," he added. "The days of eleventh-hour negotiations are over."
The Democratic legislation put forward yesterday would raise $55 billion from the "Buffett rule," by requiring wealthy taxpayers to pay a 30 percent tax on all of their adjusted gross income, phased in between $1 million and $2 million. The proposal would also eliminate a tax break that encourages companies to ship job overseas and eliminate a tax loophole for the oil industry. The Democratic plan would include $27.5 billion in defense cuts through 2012, as well as $27.5 billion in domestic cuts over 10 years.
Van Hollen said today that Democrats were open to tax reforms more palatable to Republicans -- later on in the year as part of separate tax reform efforts. "There are lots of tax breaks that shouldn't stay in the tax code for another second," he said.
The $1.2 trillion sequester cuts, which were initially set to kick in on Jan. 1, emerged out of Congress' 2011 budget negotiations. Congress agreed that if a congressional "supercommittee" couldn't come up with an acceptable deficit reduction plan, Congress would just slash $1.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years -- half coming from defense spending and half from non-defense.
Given the economic damage the sequester would inflict, Congress this year stalled the cuts for two months -- which is why they're now set to go into effect in March.