Partisan fighing mars sequestration hearing

Congress on Aug. 1 convened yet another hearing examining the potential implications of the sweeping budget cuts headed for Washington, but in this case unusually partisan comments from a White House official sparked fierce debate over who’s to blame for sequestration.


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In a House Armed Services Committee hearing that stretched nearly three hours, lawmakers clashed with Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients after Zients blamed Congress for the potentially disastrous fallout looming ahead once sequestration takes effect. Close to an hour and a half of the hearing involved near-unintelligible shouting matches, mainly between Zients and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

In a particularly hostile exchange, Forbes pressed Zients on whether he believes “draconian defense cuts” are a sensible way to drive agreement between the two parties on Capitol Hill. Zients in turn pointed the finger at Congress.

“What is holding up now is the Republican refusal to have the wealthiest 2 percent pay their fair share,” Zients said.

The hearing, in which Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also appeared, was slated to discuss planning – or lack thereof – of how sequestration may be implemented if and when the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts to federal spending are enacted in January. In the end, little was said to address that issue specifically, with both Zients and Carter saying that because opportunities exist to reverse the cuts, it’s too early for detailed planning.

“We don’t want to begin taking actions now to tear ourselves to pieces to prepare for something that’s really stupid,” Carter said.

Zients warned that if sequestration does go into effect, its occurrence in the middle of the fiscal year could mean that cuts estimated at 10 percent for the Defense Department and 8 percent for the rest of the government could end up being as high as 14 percent.

“Sequestration is a blunt, indiscriminate instrument designed to force congressional action on achieving a balanced deficit reduction plan,” Zients noted in his testimony. “It is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction.”

The bickering went well beyond just sequestration, with arguments ensuing over tax rates, President Obama’s 2013 budget and other unrelated issues.

At the end, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) apologized to Zients and Carter for what he deemed to be a waste of their time.

"I'm sorry that we dragged you from your governing responsibilities into this spectacle," Johnson said.

In an e-mail statement issued shortly after the hearing, Gordon Adams, American University School of International Service professor and former senior White House official for national security budgets, derided the morning’s turn of events.

“Today’s HASC hearing on sequester became the predictable political theater its organizers intended: a partisan food fight over what would happen and who was responsible,” Gordon said. “Let there be no mistake: Sequester is not good planning or good budgeting. It is survivable, however, if the policy-makers are so determined to avoid agreement that they let it happen.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 Misinformed Right

Try this one, from your very own propaganda machine: http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/30/pf/taxes/who_pays_taxes/index.htm NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Most people think they pay too much to Uncle Sam, but for some people it simply is not true.

In 2009, roughly 47% of households, or 71 million, will not owe any federal income tax, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Some in that group will even get additional money from the government because they qualify for refundable tax breaks.

-snip- Bottom line, the "rich" are paying their fair share, and some. Another question to ask is whether a graduated tax is fair. The rich don't complain, but they should. Some taxed at one rate, others at three times the rate or more. Reward success, don't penalize it.

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 Keeper of the Faith

Considering how our national leaders can NOT seem to get our budget balanced with their "politics as usual" attitude, maybe its well past time for more FIERCE debate! Most every American knew the Super Committee was an escape mechanism and would NOT work! Shame on us for allowing our leaders to do this to us!

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 Uh er

Let sequestration go forward and let the Bush tax cuts expire for all. We will have a balanced budget. Let the chips fall where they may; small and medium business and personal bankrupcies, more need for welfare, unemployment, foreclosures, medicare and medicaid, etc. Then we will be in a deficit again very quickly. Then let us watch congress and the president point fingers at one another for political theater. The politicians do not care about whom they serve except to emotionally master elctions with pain, superstition and financial threats. It is embarrassing to be a part of but hey its home!

Fri, Aug 3, 2012

The issue of 50% of Americans not paying federal taxes is not about "all" federal taxex. It is about not paying Federal Income Taxes. Yes everyone pays some sort of federal taxes (SS, Medicare, etc.), but approximately 47% of Americans pay no federal INCOME taxes. The top 5% pay approximately 98% of federal INCOME taxes collected. So get it straight lefties and righties. Someone define "fair share" since the Pres and no other Demo will state what that is. But is sure sounds great to all the lefties

Fri, Aug 3, 2012

Right, when I've looked at OMB and IRS statistics, it appears the bottom 40-50% "have no skin in the game", but the lion's share (by percentage as well) is paid by the top percentiles. There are case of individual and corporations paying no taxes (Like GE and some others), so those might be fair political fodder. It's just not right to demonize those who have risked it all, worked their keisters off and are successful.

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