What is Congress doing as the budget deadline approaches?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 12:00am

Four days remain before $85 billion in widely disliked forced spending cuts start to take effect. So what's Congress -- back from a weeklong break -- doing Monday to change course?

Not much -- at least publicly.

The GOP-controlled House has one floor vote scheduled: a 6:30 p.m. vote on a bill to rename a NASA flight research center at Southern California's Edwards Air Force Base after the late astronaut Neil Armstrong. The bill is sponsored by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, members are scheduled to vote around 5:30 on the nomination of a new judge for the 10th Circuit.

That's it, in terms of actual votes.

You can, however, expect angry sound and finger-pointing all day long.

Three Republican House members from Virginia -- Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes and Rob Wittman -- got together at 9 a.m. to highlight what they termed a "potentially devastating impact" on the Hampton Roads region if looming defense cuts aren't stopped. President Barack Obama is expected to stop by the area Tuesday to put his own spin on things.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House GOP leaders are scheduled to talk to reporters around 4 p.m., and step up their effort to blame Obama for the unpopular cuts.

"It is no secret that the very proposal" for the current forced spending cuts originated in the White House," South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Wilson declared on the House floor early Monday afternoon. "The best way that our country can avert this devastating policy ... is for the president to put the interest of the American people before party politics."

On the Democratic side, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland took to the House floor to argue that while many "Republicans have been praising the sequester as a viable path forward, Democrats recognize this mindless policy for the danger it is."

Hoyer, who tried unsucessfully to force consideration of an alternative House Democratic plan, urged Republicans to either work with the Democrats or "abandon this reckless policy."

Other House Democrats took to Twitter on Monday morning.

"In California, sequester could cost 2K families their child care aid and 1k teachers their jobs," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Michigan warned that "373k seriously mentally ill adults and children could go untreated because of the sequester."

One development to watch closely: Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, are expected to introduce their own bills for replacing the cuts either Monday or Tuesday. Will this just be more political posturing? Or could it be the start of something more serious, like a bipartisan effort to give Obama more flexibility in implementing the cuts?

Stay tuned. 


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