Entries in Budget Cuts (28)


Janet Napolitano: Border Is Less Secure Because of Budget Cuts

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that, although safety is her top priority, there is no way around cutting back on border patrol agents monitoring the country's borders because of the across-the-board spending cuts, known as "the sequester," that went into effect over the weekend.

"The number of border patrol hours that will need to be reduced equates to the equivalent of 5,000 border patrol agents, so we have fewer border patrol agents between the ports of entry," Napolitano told ABC's senior national correspondent Jim Avila in an exclusive interview.  "We're going to do everything we can to minimize that impact on our nation's security, but that's just the plain fact of it."

When asked about the Department of Homeland Security's controversial decision to begin releasing illegal immigrants from jails across the country last week in preparation for sequestration, Napolitano said she was not involved in making the decision.

"The decision was made by the people who operate this program that certain low level detainees could be put in an alternative to detention.  They're not released.  Some are wearing ankle bracelets.  Some have to report repeatedly into an office and the like," she said, going on to add that she would have preferred the changes to have been made more gradually.

Despite the secretary's concern about the impact of sequestration on border security, she said the country's border with Mexico has never been stronger and said the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now.

"We need to bring the 10 million to 11 million who are here out of the shadows so that, we know who they are, we have their biometrics, and we're better able to then focus on narco-traffickers, and human smugglers, and transnational criminal operations, the big law enforcement needs that we have," said Napolitano.

She said there also needs to be a system for employers to verify the legal status of their employees, to cut back on the demand for illegal immigrant labor among businesses. 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Hope Springs Eternal’ for Obama on Budget Cuts

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With one week to go until sweeping budget cuts kick in, President Obama on Friday said avoiding the so-called sequester is a “no-brainer” and that lawmakers still have the “opportunity to make the right decisions.”

Obama told reporters he does not think the $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts are “inevitable,” as mandated if  Congress fails to agree on a deficit-reduction bill.

“We always have the opportunity to make the right decisions, and I’ve been very clear that these kinds of arbitrary, automatic cuts would have an adverse impact on families, on teachers, on parents who are reliant on Head Start programs, on our military readiness, on mental health services, on medical research,” he said. “This is not a smart way for us to reduce the deficit.”

The president pledged to continue conversations with members of Congress about how to avoid the likely painful cuts, which he said would “slow down the recovery.”

“My hope is that we can see a different course taken by Congress,” he said. “This should be a no-brainer.”

Asked about the realistic chances a deal can be reached in the next week, Obama said simply, “hope springs eternal.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama to Call for Plan to Avoid Automatic Budget Cuts

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Tuesday will "deliver remarks to urge action to avoid the automatic budget cuts scheduled to hit next Friday if Congress fails to find a path forward on balanced deficit reduction," according to a White House official.

The president will speak at the White House at 10:45 a.m. ET and will be joined by emergency responders -- "the kinds of working Americans whose jobs are on the line if Congressional Republicans fail to compromise on a balanced solution," the official says.

The official warns that if these cuts go into effect, "hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost and middle class families all across the nation will feel the devastating impact; FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] would need to eliminate funding for state and local grants that support firefighter positions and state and local emergency management personnel, hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Cole Poses Doubts on Obama's Plans for Budget, Guns, Drones

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama's plea to House Republicans to include new revenues along with spending cuts to head off the March 1 sequester has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole told ABC's This Week Sunday that GOP lawmakers will hold the line on any tax increases because of how the White House got its way in the fiscal cliff deal last Jan. 1.

According to the Oklahoma Republican, "The president accepted no spending cuts back in the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal 45 days ago, so you get no spending cuts back then, then you’re going to get no revenue now."

The president wants a balanced package in an effort to stave deep automatic spending cuts that will immediately take an $85 billion chunk out of the budgets of the Pentagon and other government programs.

The 10-year plan, approved by a "supercommittee" of bipartisan lawmakers in 2011, calls for $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade.

Meanwhile, Cole also addressed two other hot-button issues: overseas drone strikes and gun violence at home.

As for the president's sweeping proposals to curb gun violence, Cole said he expected congressional agreement on improved mental health programs and possibly enhanced background checks but expressed doubt that anything that would directly affect gun ownership will get through Congress.

In regards to overseas strikes against terrorists, even those who are American citizens, Cole suggested that perhaps the program should be scaled back since by only killing suspects, U.S. intelligence is missing out on gaining valuable information.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Panetta Thanks Congress for Suspending Deep Pentagon Spending Cuts

Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- One person who breathed a particularly huge sigh of relief after Tuesday's congressional compromise on the fiscal cliff was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

He had already braced the Pentagon to be ready for a series of deep budget cuts known as sequestration that would total around $500 billion over 10 years.  However, the bill passed by the House and Senate puts those spending reductions on hold for at least two months.

Panetta, who plans on retiring soon, issued a statement Wednesday expressing gratitude to lawmakers from both parties for putting a temporary halt to sequestration, adding, "Hopefully, this will allow additional time to develop a balanced deficit reduction plan that would permanently prevent these arbitrary cuts."

For the past year, since Congress approved the budget cuts to help bring down the nation's debt, Panetta has been on a campaign to get members of Congress to change their minds on sequestration, saying it "would have a devastating impact on the department."

Panetta acknowledged that he "would have been required to send out a notice to our 800,000 civilian employees that they could be subject to furlough" if the fiscal cliff compromise had not been reached.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Bernie Sanders Calls on Dems to Reject Entitlement Cuts

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Entitlement reform may offer an area of compromise on the "fiscal cliff," but Bernie Sanders is having none of it.

The independent Vermont senator, who has described himself as a “democratic socialist,” is widely regarded as the most liberal member of the Democratic caucus.  In a speech Wednesday at the National Press Club, Sanders offered his take on fiscal cliff negotiations: Don’t cut social programs, at all.

“We have CEOs from Wall Street making millions of dollars a year, coming to Washington and saying we’re gonna have to cut not only Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- we’re gonna have to cut benefits for disabled veterans,” Sanders said.  “Let ‘em take that argument to the American people.”

Sanders took particular aim at two options that have been proffered as middle grounds: raising the Medicare eligibility age by two years and calculating inflation differently.  The latter idea, swapping the current consumer price index (CPI) for the 0.3-percent-smaller “chained CPI,” would affect multiple entitlements, including Social Security and veterans’ benefits.

Democrats are being asked to consider entitlement reforms as part of a deficit-reduction plan to avoid automatic cuts set for the end of the year.  Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appeared at the Center for American Progress last week to ask progressives to consider cuts as part of a compromise.

“We can’t be so naive as to believe that just taxing the rich is going to solve our problems,” Durbin said in his speech there last Tuesday.  

At the National Press Club, Sanders offered a progressive counterpoint.

“We have got to stand tall and say that, in the middle of this recession, we’ve got 50 million people who have no health insurance at all.  We ain’t gonna cut Medicare.  We’re not gonna throw children off of Medicaid,” Sanders said.

“And yes, despite all of the power that our friends on Wall Street have, and the fact that they own many of the politicians here in Washington, some of us are gonna stand with working families, low-income families, disabled veterans and senior citizens,” he added.

Sanders proposed allowing the high-income Bush tax cuts to expire, eliminating corporate tax loopholes, ending tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies, cutting Pentagon spending and allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama to Hold First Post-Election News Conference

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama faces the press on Wednesday for the first time since his re-election amid the sexual scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus.  And with the clock ticking toward the looming "fiscal cliff," both topics are expected to take center stage.

Wednesday will mark Obama's 20th formal solo White House news conference -- his first since March.

Since then, however, the president has fielded questions in a variety of other capacities.  He last took questions from the White House press corps at an impromptu press conference in the briefing room in August, when the bulk of the questions revolved around the heated presidential campaign.

Before that, Obama answered a handful of reporters' questions following a briefing room statement on the economy in June, when he said "the private sector is doing fine" and set off a brief ruckus on the campaign trail.  Later that month, at the G20 summit in Mexico, the president answered six questions from three reporters on the European debt crisis, the conflict in Syria and the notion of politics stopping at the water's edge.

The president has also responded to the occasional shouted question from a White House reporter.  Last month, after delivering a statement on Hurricane Sandy, the president answered a question about how the storm was affecting the election.

In the run-up to the election, the president gave interviews to talk shows and entertainment magazines, including US Weekly, Jay Leno, MTV and Rolling Stone.

Before he opens it up for questions Wednesday, the president is expected to deliver a brief opening statement on his efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit and prevent the economy from going over the "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect on Jan 1.

The president has said he wants to preserve tax breaks for the middle class but has vowed to veto any bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners.

Obama, who has said he is "open to compromise," is expected to urge House Republicans to pass the Senate bill that would extend tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GOP Senator Says ‘Put Politics Aside’ to Avoid ‘Fiscal Cliff’

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the “fiscal cliff” looming, there was plenty of talk Sunday by members of both political parties of reaching a deal to avoid spending cuts and tax hikes that some economists say could plunge the country back into recession.

“We need to put politics aside.  The election is over.  President Obama has won,” Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said on ABC’s This Week.

But while there are signs of a way to make a deal, it’s not clear that everyone is on board, even though Speaker of the House John Boehner says he will consider increasing revenues.

“The tone was good.  I think the jury is still out on exactly what the substance of what he said is,” Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said.

The so-called “cliff” comes on Jan. 1, when several tax cuts expire and severe cuts to government spending are triggered.  It’s also been called “taxmageddon,” because an average American family will see their tax bill increase by $3,700 next year.

The sticking point to solve the stand-off is what the president calls a “balanced approach” of spending cuts and increased revenues.  The president campaigned on -- and won on -- the pledge to allow the tax rates for the rich to rise, while keeping middle-class tax rates where they are currently.

A leading Republican said “no” on Sunday.

“No Republican will vote for higher tax rates.  We will generate revenue from eliminating deductions and loopholes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

That’s the position Boehner is promoting as well.

While Obama has said he is open to “new ideas,” a leading Democrat suggested closing loopholes is not enough.  Sen. Patty Murray of Washington was asked on ABC’s This Week if Democrats will allow the country to go over the cliff.

“To solve this problem, the wealthiest Americans have to pay their fair share, too,” she said.  “So if the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we’ll start over next year.”

The two sides have a few more days to make their cases before congressional leaders are called to the White House on Friday.  That’s when negotiations start in earnest and we learn if the election made a difference in relations between the two parties.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Senators Devising Plan to Avoid 'Fiscal Cliff'

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Plans are underway in the U.S. Senate to deal with the political hot potato known as the “fiscal cliff,” a confluence of tax hikes, deep spending cuts and a growing federal deficit that could send the economy into another recession by early 2013.

According to a story in Tuesday's New York Times, a bipartisan group of senators is formulating a three-step process that would avert the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending reductions known as sequestration that would hit the Pentagon particularly hard.  The process would include reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade by changing the tax code, reforming various entitlements and trimming federal programs.

If that idea flops, the senators have Plan Two, which involves changes to Social Security, more extensive spending cuts and the addition of $2 trillion of revenue through lower tax rates that eliminate or trim deductions and credits.

The final alternative, which is the least desirable, is simply delaying the expiring tax cuts and upcoming spending reductions to give lawmakers more time to arrive at a plan that has wide partisan support.

Much depends on the outcome of the election.  The Republican-controlled House is opposed to ending tax cuts for the nation’s 2 percent of wage earners while Democrats are insistent that no deal is possible unless the wealthy return to the tax rates of the Clinton administration.

Despite their differences, no one wants nearly 90 percent of working Americans to pay more taxes amid draconian spending reductions that would certainly result in the second recession of the past five years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Details Looming ‘Doomsday’ Budget Cuts

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Friday laid out on paper -- 400 pages of it -- the details of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that would take effect at the end of the year unless Congress strikes a deal.  The picture is not pretty.

Billions of dollars would be slashed from defense operations and maintenance programs, says the administration.  Medicare would take a two-percent hit, trimming millions in payouts to health care providers. Scientific research programs would be gutted. Aid for the poor and needy would be sharply curtailed.

More than a billion dollars would even be wiped from the State Department’s diplomatic and consular program, including $127 million for embassy security, construction and maintenance and $2 million for the protection of foreign missions and officials, according to the document.

“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions,” the administration writes in the report, which was submitted to Congress as required by law.

“Sequestration” is the technical name for the across-the-board spending cuts that were agreed to by bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress last year as a penalty for failing to achieve a deficit reduction plan.  They take effect on Jan. 2, 2013, unless lawmakers come up with a different plan totaling $1.2 trillion.

“It was intended to drive both sides to compromise, it was never intended to be implemented,” a senior administration official said.

In releasing the report the White House emphasized that it had no discretion in deciding what programs would be cut or by how much.  Those details were specified by lawmakers as part of the debt ceiling deal reached last year, officials said.

However, the document immediately provided fresh political fodder for Republicans, who have accused Obama and Democrats of being willing to stomach the deep cuts.  The critics do not mention, however, that many Republicans also voted for the plan, including House Speaker John Boehner and GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan.

“This report confirms that the president’s ‘sequester’ is a serious threat to our national security and must be replaced,” Boehner said in a statement. “But with only a few months before they’re scheduled to go into effect, President Obama and Senate Democrats have taken no action whatsoever to avert these cuts.”

House Republicans have passed a measure to avoid the drastic cuts, but Democrats have balked because their plan includes no new revenue (tax increases). To resolve the standoff, both sides will need to compromise on taxes.

“I want to be very clear that the administration does not support the indiscriminate, across the board cuts detailed in this report,” a senior administration official said. “We believe, the administration believes, that these cuts should never be implemented.”

Should lawmakers fail to reach a deal, some budget items will be spared: Veterans benefits, military personnel, and salaries for members of Congress, among other exempt categories.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio