U.S. Senate fails to stop spending cuts from triggering
There is little optimism in Washington that $85 billion in spending cuts will be averted, but the worst impacts aren't expected for several weeks, since federal workers have to receive official notice that they may be furloughed
WASHINGTON — The Senate killed competing bills on Thursday intended to alter the across-the-board cuts set to be triggered on Friday, including one by Sen. Jim Inhofe that would have given the Obama administration more discretion in how reductions are made.
Both bills fell well short of the votes needed to advance beyond procedural hurdles. A Democratic bill that would have used tax hikes on the wealthy and cuts to farm subsidies to replace this year's automatic cuts won a majority, but needed 60 votes to advance. Inhofe's bill drew only 38 votes, as even some Republicans voted against it.
The cuts are scheduled to take effect late Friday, and there was little optimism on either side that they could be averted. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are scheduled to meet Friday at the White House, but the partisan divide over spending and taxes is expected to remain.
Obama released a statement Thursday criticizing Republicans for not backing the Democratic proposal that included tax hikes. He said he would discuss the next steps Friday with congressional leaders.
“As a nation, we can't keep lurching from one manufactured crisis to another,” he said. “Middle-class families can't keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington. We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we've already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise.”
Though the Pentagon and some agencies have warned of widespread furloughs, those aren't likely to occur for several weeks, so the real impact of the so-called sequester won't be immediately noticeable. The cuts are the result of the 2011 debt ceiling deal that required $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps are mostly exempt from the cuts.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the spending cuts will have “a rolling impact, an effect that will build and build and build.”