Automatic Cuts Seem Certain, GOP Senator Says

Republican Senator John Barrasso said Sunday the Senate Democrats' proposal unveiled last week to avert the approaching sequester is not going to work, so the country should be prepared for the across-the-board spending cuts to kick in next month.

"Let me be very clear – and I'd say this to the president as I say it to you – these spending cuts are going to go through on March 1," the senator from Wyoming told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley during an interview on the "State of the Union" show.

Last week, Senate Democrats proposed a $110 billion mix of tax increases and spending cuts to put off $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to hit March 1. But Republicans, who are opposed to increasing any taxes and want the nation to reduce the cost of government, responded by saying it was not acceptable.

"Taxes are off the table," Barrasso said Sunday. "The American people need to know tax cuts are off the table and the Republican Party is not in any way going to trade spending cuts for a tax increase."

The senator added there are "much better ways to do these budget cuts," but did not specify.

On Sunday morning, President Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, also sounded unsure if the sequester could be averted.

"I sure hope it doesn't (happen)," McDonough said on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that the president "will continue to make very reasonable and balanced proposals, as he has time and time again."

After the Senate Democrats' plan was laid out Thursday, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray said, "I think our caucus is very supportive of replacing the sequester with a fair and balanced approach… It will be a balanced approach of 50 percent revenue, 50 percent cuts."

However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell responded by saying the measure is merely "a political stunt" and "a total waste of time." "This is not a solution – even they know it can't pass; that's the idea," he said. His aide told CNN, "I would respectfully disagree that the American people are going to suddenly demand more tax hikes."

As part of a $1.2 trillion deal struck by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 to extend U.S. borrowing authority and cut the deficit, federal agencies face $85 billion in automatic spending cuts this year.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 750,000 jobs would be lost this year alone as a result of the sequester.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said last week the sequester will hurt students. "The biggest cuts would take effect next school year – the 2013-14 school year – but their impacts would start sooner... Under sequestration, districts would have to plan to make do with less, meaning fewer teachers and staff, larger class sizes, fewer courses, less tutoring, and higher unemployment," he said Thursday, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified that it could pose a real setback for immigration reform. "I can tell you that under sequester, we will lose in hours 5,000 Border Patrol agents over the next year," and customs would be looking at "furloughs of 12 to 14 days for every port officer. … We're looking at longer wait times, less security between the ports of entry."

Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan also testified, warning that the sequester could affect Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, the Federal Housing Administration's ability to process loans and tens of thousands of jobs.

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