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. Walker

    Giving Obama flexability is idiotic. He is vindictive enough where they should know by now they would live to regret it.

    February 26, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. JustAO


    and when spending stops or is about to in their districts,


    We should stop taking the GOP seriously when it comes to social and economic issues from now on. Luckily, history has proven that reality will override their policies sooner or later.

    February 26, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  3. bill

    Obama just released ten thousand illegal alians out of prisons because he didn't get his tax hikes. Bitter and cold.

    February 26, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. Dalfrom CA

    It would be nice to cut the salaries of the congressmen and women by 50% if they do not come up with the solution. This will be the best thing that can happen to them.

    February 26, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  5. g

    never had these problems ,when lables said MADE IN AMERICA -no wonder communist china,s leader are all ways smiling

    February 26, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  6. slalja

    wow. those on this thread seem to follow the MSM slant against republicans pretty well. continuing the party line to not accept ANY responsibility, but to continue to blame half of the US... interesting!

    February 26, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. David

    The republican strategy of creating one fake crisis after another is backfiring on them even worse than last terms strategy of reflecting their own extreme positions on the President.

    February 26, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  8. geggyg

    @ me
    Yes Pres Obama presented the idea of the sequester as the way to force a change to the stalemate on budget issues , congress came up with the details and passed it , Obama then signed it . If the repubs didnt like it they could easly have voted it down in either house, there is no way a President can force a YES vote if the members dont like the bill . Look back at the quotes of the time Boehner said he got 98% of what he wanted, and all the congressional leaders and even many teabaggers said the idea of the sequester was a good idea as it would force a long term deal on fixing the deficit.

    February 26, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  9. Norma Vessels

    Yep, way to go, Rand Paul, shift the responsibility to the President and the White House .. then you can blame
    our President for all the cuts that your were supposed to straighten out by now. No .. we remember that you've
    had plenty of time to correct this mess .. and you failed once again. We will remember in November, 2014.

    February 26, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. Norma Vessels

    Sorry, I meant to say, Paul Ryan .. but then, those two are about one and the same anyway, so not much difference between the two.

    February 26, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  11. bc runner

    Isn't that nice of them!!!! They voted for them and noow they want to wash heir hands like Pontius Pilots and blame the president for the pain and the unemployment it will cause... No way GOP!! You mmade this bed. Now lay in it.. You own it!! President Obama did not want a sequester!!

    February 26, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  12. Thomas

    Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan looks like he's singing " I did it My Way or Bring in the Clowns " .

    February 26, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. Surfer George

    If they're smart, they won't do it.

    If they DO do it, I hope the President cuts any and all grants, subsidies, etc, to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agri, ALL of the Corporate WELFARE recipients.
    AND those who ship jobs off shore.

    February 26, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  14. nytw

    Hopefully everyone of these liberal RINOs will be tossed out of office in 2014 and replaced by Real Conservatives.

    February 26, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  15. Evergreen

    Ryan wants to give more power to the Executive Branch so that they can continue to label the President a dictator.

    February 26, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  16. ghostriter

    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.

    You conservatives are about as dumb as they come. And I mean that. You complain daily about the "Obama Take Over Plan" and how he wants to become a king. somehow makes sense to give him more authority?

    If you wanna take care of our tea party problem, just have Obama publically state he is against putting arsenic on his corn flakes and is thinking about outlawing it. We'll have the problem cleaned up by lunch time.

    February 26, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  17. wade

    Republicans Warn Obama Cuts 'Are Going to Happen' So either CNN is lying as usual or the rest of the news media is. The story from everywhere else is the cuts are going to happen because the democrats will not come to the table.

    February 26, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  18. RomneyWho

    Republicans are like fish floating at the top of the water, upside down . 🙁

    February 26, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  19. T

    .....DONT YOU DARE COMPROMISE................that way, the gop will wither on the vine................

    February 26, 2013 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  20. pseudo

    What's wrong with giving obama the power to decide which departments get hit by the sequester? He signed the bill into law himself. Too late to pull out now that the baby is full term. Man up and do what has to be done. Lead or let biden do your job... again.

    February 26, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  21. Sam

    U people people need to grow up we wont even notice the cuts we should be cutting more cut programs like big bird there plenty of useless programs

    February 26, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  22. Jnuey

    I don't care who makes the cuts just make them. Cutting 10 % is something business does all the. Families do it. The govt has so much waste 10% should be easy to cut. Start by bringing back the 2b we give in foreign aid to Pakistan. Stop spending money we have to borrow from China to spend. It crushes our kids futures

    February 26, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    What a sad bunch of cowards these Republicans are.

    February 26, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  24. Reggie from LA

    Oh no! Stick with the plan. Let your constituents "feel" your love for them and country. Are you trying to bluff the President? Show your GOPeople how you'd rather protect the money of the monied. Think about it folks. Do taxpayers pay lobbyists? Noooo!!! Special interests pay lobbyists. Why do they pay lobbyists? Why are there so many paid lobbyists around the beltway? BECAUSE IT'S GOOD BUSINESS (for everyone but us). You voted them in so they can take money from oligarchs and screw us all. "Good Boy(s and girls)". OK now, go fetch again (in 2014).

    February 26, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  25. MaryM

    Just when you think these republicans could not get anymore ignorant, they prove you wrong again. Please America,
    vote these clowns out of office in 2014

    February 26, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
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