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U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie described President Barack Obama’s governing practices as “irresponsible” and said the president is trying to use the military as leverage for new spending.
With sequestration taking effect forcing automatic cuts to the military and other federal services, Guthrie said Friday that he believes a proposal will be made before the end of the month to replace cuts proposed for national security with more “equal” cuts that may be even greater in scope than the roughly $85 billion proposed this year.
Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, met with Fort Knox officials last week as they outlined how sequestration-related cuts would be implemented if fully enacted.
Federal officials have warned the Department of Defense’s civilian workers could face furloughs, losing one day of work per week for up to 22 weeks. About 7,000 defense department civilian employees work at Fort Knox and could lose 20 percent of their pay for more than half a year. Department officials have said exceptions to the furloughs would be few.
Guthrie said military leaders are asking for flexibility in how they make the cuts rather than targeted cuts on specific programs. This, he said, would allow officials to move money around and ease some of the pain. He said it is unfair for military families to shoulder so much of the burden of sequestration, saying the potential damage to national security could be remedied if Obama would agree to find savings that equate to a few cents on every federal dollar spent.
Guthrie is one of several lawmakers who support reforms to federal spending and said any proposal for tax increases to deal with sequestration is not welcome after a tax hike left Americans with less money to start the year.
Obama last week said Americans are resilient, but the economy does not need a “series of dumb, arbitrary cuts” he labeled as “inexcusable.”
In his speech, Obama outlined segments of the country that will be directly impacted by sequestration: Companies working with the military, border patrol and FBI agents and civilian workers at the Pentagon. As many as 750,000 jobs could be lost, the president said.
Most pertinent to Hardin County, Obama said sequestration could deal blows to communities near military installations.
“All of this will cause a ripple effect throughout our economy,” Obama said. “Layoffs and pay cuts means that people have less money in their pockets, and that means that they have less money to spend at local businesses. That means lower profits. That means fewer hires. The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage to our economy — a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day.”
Obama blamed sequestration on Congress’ failure to act, accusing Republicans of caring more about tax breaks for the wealthy than the military or American families. He proposed a balanced approach that includes spending cuts and reforms on entitlements and the tax code.
But Guthrie critiqued the president’s management of the situation and failure to propose what he called a workable and responsible budget.
Guthrie said the U.S. government is governing on 90-day cycles, creating a haphazard environment in Washington as it rushes from one deadline to the next, facing the possibility of a government shutdown by the end of the month. Guthrie said Obama is employing this strategy to avoid compromise.
“That’s brinkmanship,” Guthrie said. “That’s not governance.”
Having a budget in place would not fix the problem overnight, Guthrie said, but it would be a start.
“It will give us a pathway,” he said.
Guthrie also criticized the Senate for failing to pass a budget plan but said it may do so by May after the House pushed for “no budget, no pay” legislation denying legislators paychecks.
He hopes the incentive will serve as an impetus for the Senate to act, saying passage of a budget is the most important role of a legislative body.
“If you’re not going to do your job, you did not get paid,” Guthrie said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.