Senate Democrats won't agree to any deal to avoid $1.2 trillion on impending defense and entitlement cuts without new taxes, according to Senate leadership member and former "supercommittee" chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA).
The cuts, mandated by the law Congress passed last year to avoid a debt-ceiling crisis, would automatically cut $600 billion each from defense spending and entitlement spending over the next 10 years, when compared with current projections. Republicans have offered various plans to avoid the cuts, but none of them come with new revenues, so none of them will be accepted by Democrats, Murray said.
"As you all remember, sequestration was included in the bipartisan Budget Control Act to give both sides an incentive to compromise," Murray said in a Monday speech at the Brookings Institution. "But Republicans weren't willing to offer any concessions to get to a deal - and now they want to have their cake and eat it too. They all want the deficit reduction, but without any of the bipartisan compromise or shared sacrifice."
Murray said that Democrats insisted on new revenues during the debt-ceiling debate and also during the supercommittee negotiations -- and they are not going to alter that stance to avoid the sequestration cuts, which would automatically go into effect in January if Congress does not act.
"So anyone who tells you sequestration is going to simply disappear because both sides want to avoid it is either fooling themselves or trying to fool you," she said. "It is going to have to be replaced, and that replacement is going to have to be balanced."
Murray also said that Democrats would never agreed to avoid the defense cuts unless the entitlement cuts were also avoided. She is working with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on legislation that would require an analysis of the impact of all the cuts. But if the GOP doesn't play ball, Murray indicated that Democrats would let the cuts go through and then argue that Republicans were to blame.
"I will not agree to a deal that throws middle-class families under the bus and forces them to bear this burden alone," she said. "Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence."
On the GOP side, the fight against the sequestration cuts is being led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Last week, Ayotte -- who is being groomed as a GOP leader on foreign policy -- criticized the administration for refusing to prepare for the cuts.
"As commander in chief, President Obama can't ‘lead from behind' on sequestration," Ayotte said in a July 9 statement. "Our national security is at stake, along with a million jobs in the nation's defense industrial base. President Obama is ignoring dire warnings from his own Defense Secretary and industry leaders to avoid these devastating cuts, refusing to address one of the foremost security threats to our nation. It's a fundamental failure of leadership that I find deeply troubling."
In May, Obama surrogate and former top defense official Michèle Flournoy predicted that there would be no progress on avoiding the sequestration cuts until the lame-duck session of Congress, after voters have gone to the polls in November.
"The onus is really on Congress to exercise the discipline, the political courage, the pragmatism to reach a budget deal that avoids sequestration, which would impose draconian cuts in a mindless way that would have severe and negative impacts for our national security," she said.
Allison Good contributed reporting.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.