Unlike the “fiscal cliff” cuts, these are not accompanied by the threat of massive tax hikes, ultimately imposed only on the wealthiest taxpayers as a result of the legislation that ended the fiscal cliff standoff.
Worry runs deep through the defense sector, from weapons maker Northrop Grumman Corp to President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, Hagel. They are calling on lawmakers to find a solution.
Hagel said the cuts would be “devastating” to the Pentagon.
“It would harm military readiness and disrupt each and every investment program,” he said in written answers to senators’ questions before a confirmation hearing on Thursday. “I urge Congress to eliminate the sequester threat permanently and pass a balanced deficit reduction plan.”
While there are no public signs of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats to avert the cuts, the blame game is well under way.
Republican House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said earlier this week he believed the automatic cuts “will probably happen” because Democrats were not willing to accept further cuts to domestic programs to shield military spending.
Top Senate Democrats have put the onus on House Republicans, saying they are unwilling to accept higher tax revenues as part of a balanced approach to replacing the cuts.
Another factor is at work in the House - the increasing influence of deficit hawks who believe the military should shoulder more of the deficit reduction burden. Traditionally, Republicans, including Ryan, last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee, have tried to protect military programs.