Senate Dems work on sequester alternative

Feb. 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Democrats said they are working to craft an alternative to the $85 billion spending cut sequester scheduled for March 1.

"It's a work in progress," U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill.

However, Democratic senators said no agreement has been reached on the balance of tax hikes and spending cuts in a package, on the scope of the package or on how much of the sequester it would replace, The Hill reported Friday.

Key Democrats, after returning from a retreat in Annapolis, Md., where they discussed strategy with U.S. President Barack Obama, met Thursday in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office to look into options for preventing the sequester.

Senate Democrats and House Republicans are determined to not be blamed if the sequester -- across-the-board cuts in federal spending -- is allowed to go into effect, The Hill said. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the sequester would cut economic growth 0.7 percent and the Bipartisan Policy Center said it would cost 1 million jobs.

Obama, warning the economy would be harmed by the sequester, this week called on Congress to prevent at least some cuts with a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Republicans insist the sequester shouldn't be delayed unless Democrats agree to a different set of spending cuts and want tax hikes excluded from any replacement package.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., aid the only certainty was that legislation would be presented before March 1.

"It has to be before the sequester takes effect," he said.

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