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Senate Dems unveil sequester alternative

Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:26 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Democrats Thursday presented a $110 billion alternative to the looming sequester that raises $55 billion in new revenue through the Buffett Rule.

The package, which would be effective through Dec. 31, splits spending cuts and new revenue evenly in a bid to replace the $85 billion in spending cuts set to go into effect March 1.

Both Republicans and liberal Democrats voiced opposition to the proposal.

The plan -- crafted by Democrats Patty Murray of Washington, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Max Baucus of Montana under the guidance of Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada -- seeks new tax revenue through implementation of the Buffett Rule -- named after American investor Warren Buffett -- which would set a minimum effective tax rate for the wealthy, The Hill reported. It also would raise funds by changing taxes related to oil extraction from oil sands.

Some $27.5 billion in spending would be trimmed from the defense budget and $27.5 billion would come through elimination of agriculture subsidies, The Hill said.

The White House praised the plan.

"The American people overwhelmingly support the approach Senate Democrats are taking, especially the 'Buffett Rule.' They support it because it's simply unacceptable that the very wealthiest Americans can pay less in taxes as a share of their income than their secretaries and other middle class workers like teachers, cops and firefighters," the White House said in a statement.

"We hope that Congressional Republicans back off their insistence of putting the entire burden of reducing the deficit on the backs of the middle class and seniors because, as the President said on Tuesday, the true economic engine in this country is a thriving and rising middle class. That's how we build a strong middle class and a strong America."

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he would prefer tax code changes that raise $157 billion in new revenue.

The feeling among liberal senators is the administration has already made cuts far in excess of revenue increases, and any new agreement from the White House and Reid should be weighted more toward revenues, The Hill said Thursday.

According to the Democrats, Congress has already slashed spending by $1.7 trillion while bumping up taxes by $700 billion.

"It means we're going to have a lot more cuts than revenue, and that's not right, not fair," Harkin told the newspaper.

The Hill said 20 to 30 Democrats are calling for a deal that would fill 80 percent of the budget hole with new revenues and 20 percent through spending cuts. But Reid is seen as unlikely to go along with the plan because it would probably turn up the heat on several senators who face re-election.

Even if an 80-20 deal was brought to the floor, it would no doubt run into rabid resistance from Republicans and would also face the possibility of the Republican-controlled House demanding even deeper spending reductions.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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