Democrat offers sequestration alternative

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A Democratic lawmaker has offered an amendment to GOP legislation that would replace the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., filed his measure to the House Rules Committee to amend H.R. 444, the so-called Require a Plan Act, which directs President Obama to submit a balanced budget plan to Congress this spring. Van Hollen’s measure would eliminate the 2013 sequester and replace it with a “balanced approach to deficit reduction,” according to the text of the amendment. The amendment offers a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit. It would increase taxes on high-income earners, end some tax breaks to oil and gas companies and eliminate direct payment programs to farmers. Van Hollen unsuccessfully tried to tack on a similar amendment last fall to a House bill that replaced cuts to the Defense Department under sequestration with reductions to other government programs.

The National Treasury Employees Union encouraged the Rules Committee to approve the amendment for consideration when the House votes on H.R. 444 this week. “People all over the country are questioning why Congress isn’t doing anything to avoid the harmful and arbitrary cuts sequestration will cause beginning on March 1,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. “Van Hollen’s amendment would provide a balanced and timely alternative to sequestration.”

The Require A Plan Act requires Obama to submit a supplemental budget by April 1 if his fiscal 2014 budget blueprint does not include a plan to balance the government’s books. The administration on Monday missed the annual deadline to submit its budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year, citing uncertainty over the fiscal cliff and sequestration as reasons for the delay. The administration’s proposal is expected sometime in March, though it’s not clear when exactly.

“There is no excuse for having missed the mark four times in the past five years,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Monday. “Even the budget he eventually submitted last year never achieved balance. We need to get spending under control. “

The Rules Committee had a hearing on H.R. 444 on Monday evening.

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