With less than two days before the March 1st sequestration deadline, Senate Republicans are drafting a bill that would cancel the $85 billion in discretionary spending cuts and instead cede authority to President Obama to make the same level of slowing in the growth of spending.
According to Politico.com, if passed, the bill would require Obama to file a plan to achieve the same level of cuts in spending by March 8th. The proposal puts forward the same requirements as the sequester- that no more than $42.6 billion of the “cuts” come at the expense of defense programs. Under the plan, lawmakers would still have the power to overturn the president’s spending plan by March 22nd, but only with a resolution of disapproval that would require two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress to prevail over a veto by Obama.
The proposed bill, which appears to have the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and some conservative Republicans, is being received with skepticism. If passed, Congress’ power to authorize funds would be shifted to the president for a limited period of time.
“Let’s be clear about the goal here,” McConnell said on Wednesday. “The goal isn’t to hand over congressional authority. It’s to make sure these cuts actually happen.”
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), both of whom support the GOP sequester replacement proposal, believe their plan would make it more difficult for the president to continue his scare tactics campaign around the country in which he is supposedly informing Americans about the perils associated with the sequester cuts.
“We need to preserve the magnitude of the cuts, but I think almost everybody agrees that it would be better off if they were done differently,” Toomey said in a phone interview with Pennsylvania reporters. “We’re talking about giving the president this discretion for a matter of several months. It’s from now to the end of this fiscal year.”
However, both Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) disagree with the notion of ceding some of Congress’ constitutional authority to the president.
“Congress has a constitutional responsibility to authorize and appropriate for the nation’s security,” McCain said. “And why give that responsibility over to the president of the United States- and that renders us not just ineffective but irrelevant.”
President Obama himself rejected the idea that he be granted authority to make the necessary cuts. In Newport News, Virginia on Tuesday, Obama said, regarding the decision of which cuts to make, “there is no smart way to do it.”
Senate Democrats have put forward an alternate sequester plan that involves putting off the cuts for ten months, with savings gleaned from new taxes on millionaires. However, even they openly admit that they lack the 60 votes to pass it.