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Daily Star-Journal - Blunt expects federal cuts will start Friday

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Location: Warrensburg, MO

Democrats and Republicans will not resolve sequestration - $85 billion across-the-board, indiscriminate federal spending cuts expected to result in civilian furloughs at Whiteman Air Force Base - Sen. Roy Blunt said Wednesday.

"The spending cuts will happen. Revenues - my view is they're off the table for awhile," Blunt said during a conference call.

Blunt said he and others, for a short period, are willing to provide President Obama more discretion regarding how to take cuts rather than indiscriminately and across the board.

At the University of Central Missouri, Political Science Department Chairman Jim Staab said budgeting is up to Congress, and he doubted Obama would want to be placed in a situation of picking what is or is not funded.

"It's like a blending of the separation of powers," Staab said. "This is Congress's responsibility and ... the president would be in a no-win situation. Congress is in charge of the purse and is responsible for supporting programs, and so they would be the ones that would have to make those decisions.

"And so I think it's an attempt to pass the buck."

Based on White House information, the overall financial loss to all of Missouri's military bases would come to $110.3 million, with 8,000 civilian employees facing furloughs. Those civilian employees include people at Whiteman Air Force Base. Their pay and hours will be slashed by 20 percent, a base spokesman said.

Blunt said he does not believe cutting hours is necessary.

"There's a way to do this without furloughs. You could take (away) bigger projects, or projects that can be delayed in some way. You can cancel conferences. You can do lots of things that don't involve furloughing people," Blunt said.

Obama is to blame for the severity of coming cuts because he did not begin the process earlier, Blunt said.

"I've got two memos that I'm prepared to present on the (Senate) floor later today where the president's telling people as late as the end of the year not to prepare for this," he told The Daily Star-Journal. "I'm not for furloughs or pay cuts for these civilian employees in the military ... but if you had to do that, a 5 percent cut over the course of the year is a whole lot better than a 20 percent cut over the course of four or five months."

Democrats want more tax revenue as part of any budget deal. Blunt and other Republicans reject higher taxes.

"The broader consequences of ... reducing federal spending probably have no more economic impact than the broader consequences of raising taxes. Every economist that looks at this mentions both of these things as things that will have negative economic impact," Blunt said. "But of course in communities in our state where a defense worker population lives that supplies defense materials, or civilians that work for the military, that clearly has consequences."

Blunt said he will not vote to raise taxes or close the loophole on big oil.

"You can't just constantly be talking about how you're going to raise taxes. That was on the table in December. The president chose not to do it. That would have been the time to look at taxes and look at entitlement reform, and other kinds of reform, but the economic consequences of raising taxes are every bit as big as the economic consequences of reducing federal spending and I'm not for it," Blunt said. "I cast the vote that I'm going to cast on that in the foreseeable future ... and I'm done with it."

Obama is set to meet Friday with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. Afterward, Obama is expected to travel the country to talk about sequester. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Blunt what message Republicans will deliver about cuts in the coming weeks.

Blunt said federal spending, even with mandatory cuts, continues to grow and must be offset.

Blunt emphasized the Senate must get hold of spending priorities for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

"The Senate needs to appropriate to the number that the law now sets as the number that will be reached either through appropriating, or appropriating with sequester, and that's the model for the next 10 years unless we break that model right now, and I think we will not."

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