WASHINGTON — The White House continued Sunday to wage a public relations battle over federal spending cuts set to be triggered Friday, warning that Oklahoma could lose millions of dollars in grants, teachers could lose their jobs and low-income and disabled students could lose access to classes.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said the crisis over the cuts had been “made up” and that there were “hundreds of billions of dollars of fat and waste and excess in the federal government.”
President Barack Obama has been pressing lawmakers to wipe out $1.2 trillion in planned spending cuts and replace them with a package of tax hikes and more targeted cuts.
The across-the-board cuts will be spread out over 10 years and primarily hit the Defense Department and domestic programs ranging from education to air traffic control.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta notified about 800,000 civilian employees last week, including about 24,000 in Oklahoma, that they might have to be furloughed.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said air traffic, particularly at the nation's busiest airports, would be delayed if the cuts force furloughs of his workers.
Republicans are strongly opposed to raising taxes, and lawmakers from both parties have said in recent days that they expect the cuts, known as the sequester, to go into effect Saturday.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Coburn said the cuts would be triggered but would be less than the $85 billion over seven months — March through September — cited by the administration.
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