Senators in Both Parties Vow to Craft Debt-Reduction Plan

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators says they will work together to craft a deficit-reduction plan intended to avert $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs set to start in January.

“Sequestration will endanger the lives of America’s service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services,” the six senators, including top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a letter to the chamber’s leaders released today.

Debate in Congress on a debt-reduction deal hasn’t advanced for more than a year because of conflicts on whether tax increases and entitlement cuts should be included. The senators said “real compromise” is needed and “all ideas should be put on the table” to stop the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

“We do not believe that Congress and the president can afford to wait until January to begin to develop a short-term or long-term sequestration alternative,” said the senators, led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s top Republican.

The letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also was signed by Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Report on Cuts

The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a report to Congress this month that it would have to cut $109 billion from the budget in fiscal 2013, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. It includes a cut of $11 billion, or 2 percent, to Medicare that would affect health-care providers.

The planned cuts stem from last year’s clash over raising the U.S. debt limit. The measure increasing the limit included $1.2 trillion in reductions to federal programs over a decade -- with about $500 billion from defense -- if a bipartisan plan to cut spending and boost taxes isn’t reached. A so-called supercommittee assigned to reach an accord collapsed last year without a deal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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