Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts
February 26th, 2013
04:30 PM ET
2 years ago

Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts

Washington (CNN) - Days before the automatic spending cuts are due to kick in to federal agencies, congressional Republicans are discussing a plan to give the Obama administration the flexibility - once the cuts go into effect - to let individual executive agencies make decisions about which programs could be cut.

On the House side, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is one of the top GOP members leading talks on that approach with rank and file members.

Ryan told CNN his GOP colleagues are receptive to the concept.

"I think people are willing to do that,” he said. “I think the idea to give them more flexibility to distribute the cuts makes a lot of sense and that's something we're generally in favor of doing."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also said he also favors the idea.

"I would be happy to give the President more flexibility, and rely on the agency heads to apportion this amount of spending reduction in a different way than the sequester envisions," McConnell told reporters at the Capitol, using the Washington term for the spending cuts.

But he conceded that other Senate Republicans are "suspicious" the administration would use that authority "to punish their political enemies."

House Republican leadership aides caution there are no decisions yet about whether or how they would move a measure to swap out the across-the-board cuts with a plan to give executive branch agencies more discretion. The House could potentially include such a proposal when it considers a government funding bill, known as a "continuing resolution," to keep federal agencies funded through the fall. That vote could happen as early as next week.

Senate Republicans are still deciding what approach they will take to address the forced spending cuts.

But while Republicans may be willing to throw the hot potato of deciding cuts to federal programs back to Obama, the president said Tuesday that the sheer size of the cuts for this year means there's no way to move them around without inflicting budget pain.

"The problem is, when you're cutting $85 billion in seven months - which represents over a 10% cut in the Defense budget in seven months - there's no smart way to do that," Obama said at an event in Newport News, Virginia.

"You don't want to have to choose between – let's see. Do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?" he asked.

The president repeated his call for compromise on a plan to replace the cuts that includes new tax revenue, a non-starter for most congressional Republicans.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid panned the idea, calling it a "false concept" and noted even a top Republican, Sen. John McCain, argued it turned over decisions about programs Congress created to the executive branch.

Top House Democrats also flatly rejected the idea of offering flexibility on the cuts Tuesday, citing concerns that it cedes congressional authority to the executive branch.

Rep Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, called the idea a "false choice for us to make. We are the elected officials who the public sent here to make some tough decisions and to give direction to the executive branch of the government. This is our job to do and we ought not be passing it on or attempting to pass it on to anybody else."

But beyond the constitutional concern about who ultimately has the power of the purse, a senior House Democratic aide told CNN that Democrats oppose that idea because they don't want to let Republicans "off the hook" for backing the spending cuts that were part of the debt deal from the summer of 2011.

Transferring the final say on those cuts to the president, said the aide, would only allow the GOP to do what they've been working to do for weeks - distance themselves from something economists warn will hurt the economy.

"House Republicans are refusing to take responsibility for yet another one of their manufactured crises and the American people aren't going to fall for yet another gimmick that would still harm our economic recovery," the senior aide said.

Asked about McCain's concerns, Ryan said this isn't a new approach.

"There's a long tradition of reprogramming [in Congress],” Ryan said. “I think there's some authorizing bills that [McCain’s] talking about in the Senate. We're not talking about the same thing."

GOP Rep. Jim Lankford of Oklahoma told CNN Monday that members do not like the across the board cuts, calling the so-called sequester a "sloppy" approach. But Lankford said the challenge is "there isn't a lot of trust for the administration and how they would actually spend the money if you just handed them a checkbook."

Lankford said there are discussions about what kind of oversight or restrictions could be put in place if Congress does allow federal agency heads to make the calls on what to cut.

House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller, R-Michigan, told CNN she expects the forced spending cuts to go into effect, and does think it makes sense to let the agencies themselves determine which areas could be cut. But Miller echoed Lankford's concerns, saying Republicans are wary the Obama administration would use the budgetary authority to score political points.

Speaking of letting the Pentagon make spending decisions, Miller said, "Hopefully you've got four star generals over there that would not be reacting in a political way."


Filed under: Budget • Deficit • House Republicans • Paul Ryan • President Obama
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "I would be happy to give the President more flexibility, and rely on the agency heads to apportion this amount of spending reduction
    -------------------------------------------------
    Well I f'ing guess you would, wouldn't you?
    Bullies like you are really punks at heart. You want to unfairly attribute not only the sequester to the President but the cuts as well.
    Here's a knife cut the cake Annie-Mae.

    February 26, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. carsonpress

    This isn't anything but a total disregard for the Office of the "elected" President of the US. , who unanimously won by the popular vote. This means people rallied behind his vision which was their vision for this country. In light of that the congress, although the majority should recognise this and yield the respect he deserves. You did not WIN the Presidency to lead this country. Therefore you should bring your thoughts and ideas to the table to be considered as participants, not to grab power not fully given to you by the American vote. Otherwise what is the point in even having a President. You have obstructed justice, our democracy and the powers granted to govern honorably.

    February 26, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. me

    got jews foor all of you mentally challenged liberasl obama IS to blame. he came up with the idea he presented it to congress and the senate. he signed it into LAW when they vote.for it it is ALL him and only a serioously challenged mental veg. would think otherwise

    February 26, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. plain&simple

    Here's something all republicans should do... Learn the definition of the words,govern and responsibility. Hard to do one without the other. The biggest issue being you need to be a grown up to do both!

    February 26, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts"

    Congressional Republicans discussing plan shifting blame to Obama for cuts
    -------------------------------------------------
    Indubitably.

    February 26, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. penguin

    Giving agency heads the authority to decide where to make the cuts isn't quite the same as giving the President the authority even though the agencies are part of the executive branch. The day-to-day operation of the agencies are run by persons not beholding to either of the political parties. I suspect very few of the cuts would be overtly partison. Certainly it would be better than strict across the board cuts

    February 26, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. Ricardo martinez

    Stupid, stupids Republicans. They are the taliban, the terrorist of our economics.

    February 26, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. surf for sun

    Way to lead GOP. Don't let the door hit you on the way in 2014...

    February 26, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Pete

    Republican posters here still don't get that this president has 4 years left to straighten out what your extremist traitors called republican congressmen have done since the Bush times ..Remember idiots who rubber stamped everything during Bushs terms in Ryan and his crew of obstructionists that have screwed up everything they put their minds too..Now guys its payback time and we'll happily see all you republicans go out the door once and for all after midterms and remember we've happily warned yah didn't we!!

    February 26, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Trying to weasle out of their own proposals, are they? Color me shocked. No doubt this is that same fine, upstanding Paul Ryan that the majority of Americans saw through - oh, when was that - ah, yes, a few months ago.

    One assumes Mr. Ryan will NOT be running for president come 2016.

    February 26, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    The GOTP own this mess, and they do so from four years of obstructing and filibustering any and everything that the President might have even thought about. A policy they continue today even after failing to make him a one and done presidnt. We are going to remember this in a little less then two years , boys.

    February 26, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. eciam

    Remember the simulus package, what a bad idea.
    But give me some of that money it would help my...................
    The President doesn't want your flexability, it's tainted!!

    February 26, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. freedom

    @Ricardo
    You voted the taliban into office.

    February 26, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. crtwit

    I think there finally realizing this Man knows how to govern and handle their Political gaming.

    February 26, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. 2012liberal

    Republicans r irrelevant!

    February 26, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Alan

    Abdication, lack of responsibility, liars and now, still getting paid to do nothing, thanks to the 27th amendment, Republicans who won't compromise, America is watching and will remember, NEVER forgetting what your in action or action in self interest, taking vacations when you've created dispare in Washington D.C and Boehner, FAILING TO EVEN Call for a up or down vote on democratically developed alternative proposals, at least Gingrich had the intelligence and intellect to work a compromise with Clinton...first in 2012, you lost seats in both houses, next, it will be 2014 and a final house and senate cleaning of all you obstructionists!...maybe one last time in my life time, the civility in civics will return to moving America forward, will be an example for my daugther.

    February 26, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. Walker

    "But he conceded that other Senate Republicans are "suspicious" the administration would use that authority "to punish their political enemies."

    That is the key sentence. Obama is vindictive and giving them any flexibility is ludicrous and dangerous. NO WAY. You’re Congress – DIRECT the funds.

    February 26, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. JackKnife

    $16.5 TRILLION in DEBT and adding an additional $1 TRILLION in DEFICIT each year. This is unsustainable!!! The sequestration cuts, in total, amount to less than 1 month's worth of the $1 Trillion in our incremental debt from 2013!!!!! Cut the spending first. Then come up with a second plan to cut further AND increase taxes via closing loopholes and revamping the tax code!!

    February 26, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Repub insanity

    How bout send the GOP packing, that would save a lot of money

    February 26, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  20. Lisa P.

    Paul Ryan shows his true color yet again, and it ain't Badger red. A real leader would meet President Obama at the table, negotiate honestly and share in the credit, or blame, for the consequences.

    Paul Ryan is not a real leader. Neither is John Boehner. I have no problem with the President holding their feet to the fire until they finally agree to do the right thing by the American people - bipartisan budget cuts and bipartisan revenue increases. We need a government that works. Only a fool or a Tea Partier would think that comes for free, much as the self-interested 1% might tell you so.

    February 26, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Namejanek

    That would be OK, however we need much deeper cuts

    February 26, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  22. Namejanek

    Since Obama created this mass, it was Obama who come up with a sequester idea, let him take the heat.

    February 26, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  23. bill

    Obama just released ten thousand illegal aliens from prisons because he didn't get his tax hikes. Anyone who thinks he cares about Americans and their safety is a foooool

    February 26, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  24. JustAO

    Who sees the GOP softening on all of their positions now that the polls are telling them that 2014 will be definite dem votes? Everybody preaches stop spending until it actually means their constituents are affected. Every GOP senator that opposed stimulus from Obama wound up taking it in the end which means none of what the GOP clammer about is to be taken seriously since they don't really take themselves seriously when reality hits the fan.

    February 26, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Winning

    Hey MesaMax, I'm curious. Have you ever had an original thought in your life? Obamaquester? Really? How often do you fantasize about cupping John Boehner's junk? You sure do like to repeat his moronic talking points.

    Truth is it was both Dems and Republicans that thought up this stupid sequester, but that only had to be done to keep the Republican psychos in the House from completely destroying the American (and world) economy. But keep cuppin' that junk boy!

    February 26, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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