McMorris Rodgers Urges Senate to Act Before House on Cuts

U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a House Republican leader, said her party will wait for the Senate to act before proposing alternatives to the automatic spending cuts now taking effect.

Republicans will wait for President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats to offer legislation to replace the cuts known as sequestration with other reductions in government spending, said McMorris Rodgers. As party conference chairwoman, the congresswoman from Washington state ranks fourth among Republicans in the House.

“The president continues to say we need to raise taxes,” McMorris Rodgers, 43, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “We need the Democrats to recognize that we have a spending problem. We need them to look at the other side of the equation and not just keep talking about raising taxes.”

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, voiced a similar complaint in an interview scheduled to air on NBC’s “Meet the Press” tomorrow.

“There’s no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester,” Boehner said yesterday after he and top congressional leaders met with Obama at the presidential mansion, according to an excerpt released by the network.

Obama Proposal

McMorris Rodgers didn’t acknowledge Obama’s proposal to cut almost $1 trillion from the budget, including reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans have yet to offer any specific cuts to entitlement programs as an alternative to sequestration, even as Boehner called such spending “the primary drivers of our debt.”

The alternative cuts passed by House Republicans last year didn’t tackle Medicare or Social Security. That bill, which expired when the last session of Congress adjourned in January, protected defense spending by cutting food stamps and other domestic programs.

McMorris Rodgers said sequestration was about making immediate cuts to start reducing the deficit.

“Part of the deal was that we were going to cut $85 billion out of the federal government,” she said. “We never seem to get to the place where we actually want to move forward on the cuts. When we agree to raise taxes or raise revenue, that takes effect immediately. But in the history of this country, the cuts never seem to happen.”

‘Smarter’ Cuts

Across-the-board reductions could still be avoided, McMorris Rodgers said.

“I do not like these cuts,” she said. “There are smarter ways to reduce spending in the federal government, smarter ways to come up with the reforms.” She didn’t offer any specifics.

In the current Congress, House Republicans haven’t proposed any alternatives, and their counterparts in the Senate on Feb. 28 blocked the Democratic majority from passing a budget proposal that included higher taxes on the rich.

“Why should the House have to pass a third plan before the Senate puts any kind of a proposal on the table?” McMorris Rodgers said. “It’s pretty basic to the legislative process that the House passes a proposal and the Senate passes a proposal.”

Obama said after yesterday’s meeting that Republicans, not Democrats, have blocked action to end sequestration.

“It’s happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made,” he told reporters. “They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”

(For more on the budget, see EXT7.)
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