| WASHINGTON, June 25
WASHINGTON, June 25 The White House on Monday
urged U.S. lawmakers to focus on enacting measures to cut
federal deficits rather than holding hearings on the effect of
$1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts due to start on Jan. 2.
U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon
said in an editorial published by Politico that it was "deeply
discouraging" that the president's budget director had refused
to testify at a mid-July hearing on the projected impact of the
mandatory budget cuts under a process called sequestration.
McKeon called on Democrats and President Barack Obama to "do
their part" and offer more than "vague talking points" to avert
the mandatory cuts, which could result in the loss of 1 million
jobs in 2013 and 2014, according to several reports.
Ken Baer, communications director for the White House Office
of Management and Budget, countered the comments by the
Republican lawmaker, noting that Congress knew all along that
sequestration would hurt both defense and non-defense programs.
"Instead of holding a hearing about how to mitigate the
effects of a destructive sequester, right now is the time for
Congress to enact bipartisan, balanced deficit reduction
legislation that the President can sign into law and avoid the
sequestration scheduled to take place on January 2, 2013," Baer
said in an emailed statement.
Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon's largest
supplier, last week said it could face hundreds of millions of
dollars in business claims from suppliers if $500 billion in
additional defense spending cuts take effect in January.
Lockheed and other big weapons makers say uncertainty about
the cuts, which would come on top of $487 billion in cuts
already being implemented, could lead to extensive layoffs,
closings of facilities and an erosion of quality.
The National Association of Manufacturers released a new
report which said the automatic budget cuts would knock about 1
percent off U.S. gross domestic product by 2014.
Baer said OMB would be prepared if Congress was unable to
avert the additional cuts, which would include about $500
billion for defense over the next decade as well as over $600
billion in cuts to healthcare and other government programs.
"While OMB has not yet engaged agencies in planning, our
staff is conducting the analysis necessary to move forward if
necessary," he said.
The issue is gaining increasing attention in Congress, which
makes some lawmakers optimistic that the cuts may be averted.
Three Republican members of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, including Senator John McCain, last week called for
immediate action to avert sequestration.
McCain, the senior Republican on the committee, told a
defense conference hosted by Bloomberg Government on Thursday,
that a revenue increase may be possible to avoid the further
budget cuts. He said a previous proposal to reduce spending and
raise revenue "could serve as a blueprint for further action."
The second round of defense cuts was included in a budget
deal last year between Congress and Obama. The cuts were
believed to be so extreme they would encourage rival Republicans
and Democrats to compromise on alternative ways to reduce the
country's trillion-dollar budget deficits.
But that plan failed and lawmakers did not reach a
compromise late last year, triggering across-the-board cuts to
take effect on Jan. 2. Lockheed and other companies say they
will have to start notifying workers about possible job cuts at
their plants as early as October.
The Pentagon has requested $525 billion in defense spending
for the 2013 fiscal year beginning in October. The request was
about $6 billion less than 2012, a drop for the first time after
a decade of rising military spending. The budget was the first
to reflect the initial round of spending reductions.