As the U.S. Senate today debates proposals to avert across the board sequestration cuts, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) offered legislation that is an alternative to two bills that are being backed by the Republican and Democratic leadership, respectively. Under an agreement reached between the Majority Leader and the Republican Leader, the Senate is set to vote today on proposals from each party. Ayotte's request for a vote on her alternative proposal, which replaces the sequester with savings found elsewhere in the budget, was blocked.
"I think it's time for us to stop the charade," said Senator Ayotte, who noted that neither the Republican nor the Democratic proposal is expected to pass today. "With the clock ticking, it's my hope that we actually get down to resolving this in a responsible way for our country, by finding alternative savings to replace sequestration while still addressing our deficit. That's why I put pen to paper, to provide an alternative to the leadership-backed bills and demonstrate that we can find alternative savings to address sequestration without raising taxes. I firmly believe that we should have a vote today on every proposal, and I think anything less is a disservice to the American people, who are demanding that we start governing. It is time for us to pass a budget to prioritize spending."
Ayotte's legislation would avoid arbitrary, across the board sequestration cuts that are scheduled to start Friday by finding responsible savings in other areas of government.
The measure includes additional savings from provisions based on recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission, the Government Accountability Office, and from the president's budget. This includes reducing duplication in federal programs and agencies, extending the current pay freeze for federal workers and Members of Congress, and reforming federal worker and Member of Congress retirement programs. The bill also reduces abuse of the additional child tax credit - which the U.S. Treasury Department's Inspector General found billions in fraudulent claims. The bill attempts to eliminate federal funds for unemployment benefits for millionaires, a provision that passed the Senate 100 to 0 in 2011. Further, the bill incorporates a provision to close a loophole exploited by some states to make otherwise ineligible households eligible for certain welfare benefits - a similar provision was included in the Senate-passed farm bill. The legislation also includes a bipartisan provision to prohibit Congress from considering any legislation unless a budget resolution is passed by the April 15 deadline (the date by which Congress is required by law to pass a budget resolution).
Ayotte has worked for over a year to find alternative savings to replace indiscriminate sequestration cuts. In 2011, she voted against the debt limit bill that created the sequestration process - calling instead for a deficit reduction plan that delivers the minimum $4 trillion in savings that the president's bipartisan fiscal commission recommended rather than punting the decisions to a "super committee" in Congress.