Washington (CNN) – The number two House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, is "not absolutely positive" that the automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect will actually happen, but as his office prepares for their potential impact, he doesn't think cutting his own pay is the way to absorb the budget cuts.
"If I take a pay cut frankly that won't help our national defense that won't help our domestic investments. It won't help the economy," Hoyer said at his weekly session with reporters on Capitol Hill.
The so-called "sequester" was the enforcement mechanism added to budget deal in the summer of 2011 to force Congress to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit. If it fails to do so spending cuts will kick in next month affecting all government agencies, including the legislative branch.
Asked about a top defense official's pledge on Tuesday in a Senate hearing to cut his own pay if military salaries are cut, Hoyer said, "That's fine. It's symbolic."
But Hoyer said he is "hopeful that we avoid the sequester," and he urged GOP leaders to bring up legislation to replace the across the board cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner and other top GOP leaders argue that they have already passed two bills to replace the across the board cuts, but both of those measures passed in the last Congress so they are essentially moot now. Congressional Republicans continue to press for President Obama and Senate Democrats to present their own detailed plan to avoid the scheduled spending cuts that will begin to go into effect at the beginning of March.
The Maryland Democrat said he wanted to avoid furloughing or cutting staff, saying "I think that's an irrational policy and we're going to have to make cuts, but whether or not we'll do so by furloughs is another issue."
Hoyer's suburban Washington D.C. district includes a significant number of federal employees. He said his granddaughter, whose husband is a federal employee, asked him whether federal workers would be forced to take unpaid leave to make up for government agencies' budget cuts. He told reporters he hoped that wouldn't be the case and argued federal workers were "the only people who have been asked so far to reduce spending."
House Republicans scheduled a vote for later this week on legislation that would freeze federal worker's pay for another year. Hoyer said it's not appropriate for federal workers alone to bear the brunt of reducing the deficit. Like other Democrats, he said it should be a mix of spending cuts and revenue.
Hoyer said it was "dead flat wrong" for Republicans to blame President Obama for the series of automatic cuts that are scheduled to go into place at the beginning of March.
The number two Democrat argued that Congressional Republicans are now calling for major spending cuts and dramatic changes to federal programs, but when then President George W. Bush was President Congressional Republicans "set off on spending binge in which they paid for nothing."