WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe scrambled Wednesday to find support for a proposal to give the military some room to maneuver if deep spending cuts are triggered Friday, as leaders from both parties continued to blame each other for not reaching an agreement on spending and taxes.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants to shield the Defense Department from the worst effects of the cuts by giving the Obama administration some leeway in shifting funds around.
The department has warned that it might have to furlough nearly 800,000 civilian employees, including 24,000 in Oklahoma, for 22 days between late April and late September and cut back on maintenance and training.
Inhofe's latest effort would also allow the administration more flexibility in making cuts to other domestic agencies subjected to the process, known as the sequester; the senator previously authored an amendment that applied only to the military.
However, proposals from Republicans and Democrats regarding the looming cuts are expected to face partisan opposition, and no action is expected this week to replace them.
Legislation passed in 2011 requires $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years, with $85 billion of that coming in the period between March 1 and Sept. 30.
President Barack Obama has invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House on Friday, the day the cuts are expected to take effect, but there has been no change in the rhetoric to make an agreement seem near.
Obama wants the sequester replaced with a package of targeted spending cuts and tax hikes through changes in the tax code. Republican leaders have ruled out raising more revenue.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday, “What we have not seen from the Republicans is anything like the willingness to compromise inherent in the proposals that the president has put forward.”
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