Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts
February 26th, 2013
04:30 PM ET
9 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. Larry L

    "Flexibility" translates into "let the President assume the blame for painful decisions". As long as the Koch brothers don't get their loopholes closed Republicans couldn't care less what programs get trashed.

    February 26, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. v_mag

    Great picture of Paul Ryan singing to the choir. Probably something like "I'll Fly Away".

    February 26, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Donna

    Absolutely!! Let Obama learn how to make tough decisions. It's only been 4 years, he's had plenty of time to learn. He needs to take the training wheels off and learn how to govern FINALLY.

    February 26, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    The gop is just to stupid to govern and should self deport to romneyland !!!!!

    February 26, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. Tom

    It sounds like Republicans are starting to get nervous that they might wind up shouldering all the blame when bad things start to happen in the wake of mindless budget cuts. So, why not invent a way to blame anything that goes wrong on Obama? The thing that continues to amaze me is whether Republican or Democrat, virtually every member of congress is very well educated and has had a long, successful political career. Yet they seem to think the opposition is going to fall for these obviously bad deals. If these clowns would spend even half the time they waste trying to gain the upper political hand on actually trying to find a legitimate, fair, compromise we wouldn't have these endless games of brinksmanship.

    February 26, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    How so very nice of the rethug cretins.
    We still see through the dark shades. I love how they are now becoming the givers to,pretend these weeks have been nothing but a dream.
    The lying altar boy is going straight to he!!.

    February 26, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota


    LOL. And you thought it would only affect "them", huh Teatrolls? Bwahahahahaha!!! Reap reap reap away!!!

    Oh, I don't know, Sniffit. One would first have to assume Teatrolls are capable of thought. I've always understood that they were hatched with some sort of Limbaugh gizmo primed for early programming. Nothing they've said yet has given me any indication to believe otherwise.

    February 26, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. critical thinking

    They dont want the responsibility to make hard decisions at the WH, they just want to blame Republicans.

    February 26, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Brian

    ROFL the GOP wants to get to blame Obama for anything that happens. This brings not wanting to do your job to a whole new level.

    February 26, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts"

    Congressional Republicans discussing plan shifting blame to Obama for cuts.


    Trying to give Obama all the authority and responsibility for defining all the cuts is blatant, unadulterated cowardice and gamesmanship on the part of the GOP/Teatrolls. They simply want to shirk all responsibility for originating the budget cuts in the House (i.e., they don't want to own them, just demand them) and give themselves some silly toe-hold for claiming that any cuts that go through ar entirely owned by Obama. They also hope to run around with quasi-conspiracy theories about how this cut or that cut is Obama "taking revenge" on certain segments of the populace or how this cut or that cut is "political payback" etc.

    They'll pass this tomorrow...or try to (I have doubts this much of a grant of power to the Exec branch could pass the Teatrolls)...LIKE I SAID THEY WOULD YESTERDAY WHEN I SET FORTH THE 3 STAGES OF THEIR LAST MINUTE BLAME-SHIFT STRATEGY. If it passes, they will then, just like I said they would, throw their hands up and say "well, that's that, we did our the ball is entirely in Obama and the Senate Dems' court and anything that happens is their fault." Sorry, but the American public isn't going to buy it and the polls show it. They engage in these shenanigans at their own peril.

    February 26, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. wade

    Department of Homeland Security is releasing thousands of illegal immigrants held in jails, with officials pinning blame on budget cuts — as one sheriff says the move threatens the 'safety of the public.' However Obama can travel across the nation like a rock star costing BILLIONS. What a low life Obama really is!

    February 26, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Sniffit


    LOL. And you thought it would only affect "them", huh Teatrolls? Bwahahahahaha!!! Reap reap reap away!!!

    Oh, I don't know, Sniffit. One would first have to assume Teatrolls are capable of thought. I've always understood that they were hatched with some sort of Limbaugh gizmo primed for early programming. Nothing they've said yet has given me any indication to believe otherwise."

    True enough haha. The Teatrolls: America's little political Turing Machines.

    February 26, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. korkea aika

    Imagine if Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney were in office. They would totally gut the gov't while not touching the military budget. Thank goodness we have Obama and a more balanced approach.

    February 26, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Jack

    Good idea. Let the Prez cut monies to Red States so they can experience what they've been preaching. No money for roads, medicaid, education, national guard etc. They don't want gov't help so don't give them anything. This idea actually is duplicitous. They want the Prez to get blamed for cuts. Very clever on the Republicans part but not clever enough. Obama can throw it right back in their laps. No one gets to choose.

    February 26, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. yanni

    Here is my point republican claim that the Obama administration is incompetent and they give example Benghazi a million times. If they are right isn't this giving a power for incompliant administration? What does this make the republican party; cowardice and hypocrites who can’t remember what they said yesterday for today.

    February 26, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. Tony D

    But will Santa Obama really make cuts??? He only knows how to take money from people and give it to others. That is much more fun and people adore him for the freebies.. If he now has to play the Grinch, the responsible adult, then people will not like him and lay down before him in awe. He may quit if the adoring crowds dwindle and his ego suffers.

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

    Why not we cut defense–raise Taxes on rich. Done deal.

    February 26, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Jules

    The GOP is sickening. The new line is that the president has to show leadership – every member of congress was elected to show leadership for this country – you want leadership – look in the mirror and talk yourself into it.

    February 26, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. just askin

    why don't the republicans just pass,again, the other two bills they sent to the senate but the democrats refused to vote on? give the democrats one last chance to save themselves from their own stupidity, their own obama created, democrat senate passed disaster.

    February 26, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. Name Carl

    GOP Are out of touch with america. They only care about protecting the Rich...

    February 26, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. rs

    I guess I never realized just how gutless the GOP is. They are too afraid to undo their ticking time bomb, so now they want the President to do it for them ("and please, sir, take the blame for our bad bill too...").
    So: The GOP won't do their jobs
    The GOP won't fix their messes
    The GOP won't take the blame
    The GOP won't take the responsibility
    What losers!

    February 26, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Ancient Texan

    Ryan is offering Obama a license to steal, but since it came from the GOP, he will ignore it.

    February 26, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. MesaMax

    Obama created the Obamaquester. Obama owns the Obamaquester. Obama cannot escape the Obamaquester.

    February 26, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    This is just another cynical Republican/Tea Party political trick to place the blame on President Obama. Instead of worrying so much about the budget deficit, Congress should fix the economy and put people back to work as its first priority. Won't happen because the Republican/Tea Party is more concern with helping their wealthy 1% friends avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

    February 26, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. rs

    The GOP will still get crushed by public opinion when their Sequester kicks in- 3 days and counting.

    February 26, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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