Senators call for bipartisan push to prevent sequestration

Tuesday - 9/25/2012, 8:13am EDT

Senators from both sides of the aisle joined together and called on Senate leadership to push forward a bipartisan deficit reduction package that would stave off sequestration.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) signed the Sept. 21 letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling on them to lead the effort to prevent the round of automatic budget cuts that are due to take effect in January.

"We face a critical challenge in the next few months: balancing the need to reduce the deficit with the need to safeguard important priorities, particularly protecting our national security, vital domestic programs, and our economic recovery," the senators wrote in the letter. "We believe it is imperative to enact a bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid the severe economic damage that would result from the implementation of sequestration. Any deficit reduction package should be long term and should provide as much certainty as possible for businesses and consumers."

The senators pointed to a Congressional Budget Office warning that sequestration would increase unemployment above 9 percent and push the already shaky U.S. economy into a recession.

The letter quoted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who warned the automatic, across-the-board cuts would lead to a 9.4 percent reduction in defense discretionary funding and 10 percent in DoD's mandatory spending programs. He said sequestration "would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations."

The impact to non-defense spending would also be significant, according to administration reports, affecting programs serving the middle-class, children and seniors.

"Sequestration will endanger the lives of America's service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services," the letter states. "Meeting this challenge will require real compromise, and 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. All ideas should be put on the table and considered. Accordingly, we urge you to press between now and November the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score any bipartisan proposals forwarded to them so that Congress may evaluate these plans.

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