Republican Senators: Slash jobs instead of defense spending
A group of Republican Senators will propose on Thursday a bill to stop mandatory defense spending cuts triggered by the failure of the congressional super committee, putting in its place a plan to reduce the number of federal workers and freeze the pay of others.
The proposal would save about $127 billion in 2013 by forcing government agencies into an attrition scheme, blocking them from hiring unless three workers retire for every two new hires. It would also block any and all pay raises until June of 2014, according to CNN, which cited unnamed congressional staffers.
The plan would preserve high dollar defense contracts for weapons-makers while forcing the government’s workforce to shrink by about 5 percent. It’s being called the “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2012,” and Republicans said they plan to introduce it in a press conference later Thursday.
President Barack Obama has said he opposes any attempt to undo the blanket spending cuts mandated by the super committee. Republicans claim their plan would also protect some domestic programs from spending cuts, which may help woo some Democratic support.
Federal worker pay has been frozen for the last two years. House Republicans voted on Wednesday to continue that freeze for a third year.
The cuts were at the center of a budget battle in Washington last year that led credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the United States’ credit rating for the first time ever. Lawmakers agreed to a compromise in the debt limit fight that calls for $2.1 trillion in cuts over the next decade. Part of that compromise was forming a super committee that would identify $1.5 trillion to cut from government spending, which it failed to do.
If lawmakers cannot agree on where to make those cuts, $1.2 trillion will be automatically withdrawn from federal spending next year, and half of it will come from the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned against such a dramatic, across-the-board cut to national defense, saying that a “hasty” move would make the U.S. less secure.