House committee rejects Democratic sequester replacement

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., offered an amendment to H.R. 44 which directs President Obama to submit a balanced budget plan to Congress this spring. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., offered an amendment to H.R. 44 which directs President Obama to submit a balanced budget plan to Congress this spring. Evan Vucci/AP file photo

The House Rules Committee has rejected a Democratic measure that would have replaced the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., offered an amendment to 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 have eliminated the 2013 sequester and replaced it with a “balanced approach to deficit reduction,” according to the text of the amendment. The committee, which held a hearing Monday evening on H.R. 444, did not rule the amendment in order, thereby denying it consideration on the floor.

“Once again, House Republicans have made clear they are more interested in budget gimmicks than budget solutions,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Washington Republicans have created a series of fiscal crises, but refuse to allow a vote on the House floor on the Democrats’ balanced approach to replace the sequester’s meat-ax style spending cuts.”

House GOP leaders have criticized Obama for failing to submit a balanced budget or a satisfactory framework for achieving long-term deficit reduction. “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.”

Van Hollen’s amendment offered a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit. It increased taxes on high-income earners, ended some tax breaks to oil and gas companies and eliminated 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 Require a Plan Act obliges 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.

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