WASHINGTON — House Republicans, shrugging off rising pressure from President Barack Obama, are resolutely opposing new tax increases to head off $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions, all but ensuring the cuts will go into force March 1 and probably remain in place for months, if not longer.
Despite new calls from the White House on Wednesday to enact a combination of tax increases and cuts to postpone the so-called sequester, the House is moving forward on a legislative agenda that assumes deep and arbitrary cuts to defense and domestic programs will remain in place through the end of the year.
Congressional Republicans have relented in the most recent fiscal showdowns with the White House. But lawmakers say they have no intention of surrendering in this one even though Obama has raised the potential of widespread disruptions in government services and even military operations in the weeks ahead. The president’s January fiscal victory, which yielded increases in income, capital gains and dividend tax rates on affluent families, has only bolstered Republican resolve.
“The president says he has to have tax increases to head off the sequester. Well, he already got his tax increase," Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., said in an interview Wednesday after visiting the town just outside of the Army’s Fort Rucker, which stands to take a deep hit this spring. “It’s unconscionable to use our military men and women in uniform as a bargaining chip to raise our taxes."
Party strategists have advised Republican members to aggressively blame the president for the creation of the automatic cuts and the failure to stop them,
Taking steps to avoid a full government shutdown at the end of March, the House Appropriations Committee as soon as next week will introduce legislation to keep the government financed through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, but do nothing to stop the pending cuts.
The current stopgap spending measure expires March 27, and Republican leaders are eager to avoid an Easter-week shuttering of the government.
In recent days, Obama has sought to force Republicans into negotiations: a Saturday radio address criticizing “the current Republican plan" that “puts the burden of avoiding those cuts mainly on seniors and middle-class families"; a news conference Tuesday with uniformed first-responders whose jobs might be threatened; and Wednesday, television interviews broadcast in eight markets, urging Republicans to accept his “balanced approach" to unwind the cuts or accept responsibility for their consequences.