Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes told The Daily Caller on Thursday that he believes President Barack Obama is holding the nation’s troops and national security “hostage” with his lack of a plan to stop coming Department of Defense cuts from the sequester. Forbes said he thinks the move is an attempt on Obama’s part to force the GOP to support tax increases.
“He wants to use this [sequestration] to blackmail Republicans into raising taxes on the American people,” Forbes said in a phone interview. “He doesn’t care if it is going to cost 700,000 jobs, that is his motivation and that motivation is clear, I think, from the OMB director’s testimony.”
“I voted against this as I thought it was a bad proposal, but this is the commander-in-chief who signed this into law,” Forbes added. “And, I think it is absolutely not responsible to use a mechanism as draconian as sequestration to hold the men and women who defend, to hold the national defense of this country, to hold the economy of this country hostage just so he can force taxes to be raised.”
The problem arises from the Budget Control Act that the debt reduction super committee passed last year. The super committee’s deficit reduction plan, which Obama signed into law, put in place a trigger that will automatically make steep cuts – about $110 billion – to the Department of Defense budget come Jan. 2 if no alternative is adopted. By Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta’s own admission, these cuts – if not stopped – will cause about 1.5 million people to lose their jobs over the course of 10 years. In total, the job losses would add about one full percent to the unemployment rate.
In addition, about 200,000 of those lost jobs include active duty troops who will be forced to retire early. To put that in comparison, 200,000 is bigger than the entire Marine Corps.
Both Republicans and Democrats supported the super committee deal last year, and President Obama signed the deal into law. And, though there was bipartisan support for the deal then, top congressional Republicans who had supported the deal like House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon argue that there it was supposed to be the “’poison pill’ that would guarantee that all parties came to the negotiating table” to talk about specific budget cuts instead of “arbitrary, across-the-board cuts to every part of the military.”
Now, though, as the crisis looms with no solution, it appears President Obama and his administration are planning to blame congressional Republicans for the consequences. Obama’s acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients started moving down that road, too, during Wednesday testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
“What is holding up now is the Republican refusal to have the wealthiest two percent pay their fair share,” Zients said during the hearing in response to a question from Forbes.
Zients now claims, according to his prepared testimony, that “[s]equestration is a blunt, indiscriminate instrument designed to force congressional action on achieving a balanced deficit reduction plan” and that it “is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction.”
But, as Forbes noted in his interview with TheDC and during the Wednesday hearing, as recently as February Zients testified before Congress that Obama did support keeping the sequester. “The president is not proposing that the sequester go away,” Zients told Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions during a Feb. 14 Senate Budget Committee hearing. “The sequester is a very important forcing function for us to do deficit reduction. So the sequester will be replaced with a balanced approach to deficit reduction.”
Zients also said during that hearing that the sequester is “bad policy all around” and that the administration is “focused on replacing the sequester with balanced deficit reduction.”
House Republicans have passed a plan that would replace the sequester with other spending cuts found from eliminating wasteful spending elsewhere in government. The Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t passed a plan or even offered one. The GOP plan has already passed the House, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to hold any vote on the matter – including one for the GOP House plan – unless the GOP agrees to tax increases. And, Obama hasn’t offered any substantive plan – the one that was a part of his budget didn’t get a single vote from any congressional Democrats or Republicans in the House or the Senate.
Forbes said that if Obama wants to actually solve this problem instead of moving forward with the “draconian” cuts, he’s got to come to the table with an actual plan. “The commander-in-chief can’t fix this with press conferences, he can’t fix this with polling or focus groups,” Forbes said. “He needs to come to the table and have a proposal and it needs to garner more than zero votes.”
“This is coming in January unless it’s stopped and it’s going to take them months and months and months to do this preparation and let people know what’s happening and that’s five months out and they have done nothing. Nothing,” he added.
Another controversy involves Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recommending that employers who expect layoffs ignore the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The WARN Act requires contractors to notify workers that layoffs may be coming a couple months beforehand. That would mean if no solution is achieved before the election, millions of people would be getting letters from their employers notifying them their jobs are jeopardy in the weeks leading up to the election.
House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline and others believe Solis’ decision to recommend employers ignore WARN is nothing but a political stunt. “The recent ‘guidance’ issued by the Obama administration is a political document that underscores the legal uncertainty facing employers and leaves countless workers in the dark about whether they will lose their jobs,” Kline said in a Friday morning release. “The president can end the debate over the WARN Act right now by providing real transparency to the sequestration process and working with Congress on responsible reforms that will help fix the nation’s debt crisis. Until that time, the committee will conduct oversight of the administration’s attempt to hide from workers the devastating consequences of sequestration.”
Kline has asked Solis to produce documents and communications pursuant to her decision.