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Feb. 12, 2013—With budget sequestration just a few weeks away, Congress and the White House don't appear any closer to reaching a compromise.

Congressional Republicans on Feb. 6 offered up the "Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2013," as a means of staving off the dreaded across-the-board defense cuts slated to take effect on March 1.

The down-payment plan would prevent additional cuts to the Pentagon's budget in Fiscal 2013 beyond the $46 billion already cut over the past two years under President Obama's "budget-driven defense strategy," states a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.

That's in contrast to the President's proposal to avoid the sequester by cutting $21 billion from the Pentagon's budget for the remainder of the fiscal year in addition to more tax hikes and some lesser non-defense spending cuts, according to the HASC's analysis.

"To consider deeper cuts to the military now as a way to solve a financial crisis driven by entitlement programs, is both irresponsible and unacceptable," said HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) in a Feb. 8
release.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced the down-payment act on the Senate side, together with Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

McKeon introduced similar legislation in the House, together with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

The legislation is envisioned
to reap $85 billion in savings in Fiscal 2013 by reducing the federal workforce through attrition by 10 percent and freezing pay for members of Congress, according to the fact sheet.

"We can prevent the first year of sequestration without raising taxes," said Ayotte in
a release.

The Republicans lawmakers contend that reducing the federal deficit requires more spending cuts than the President and Democrats appear ready to embrace, and not more tax increases. They also argue that the Defense Department has shouldered way more than its fair share of the spending cuts already instituted across the federal government and cannot absorb more.

"Not all government spending is created equal, and the Constitution is clear that Congress' primary obligation is to defend our nation," states the fact sheet. It adds, "Even though defense represents approximately 18 percent of the budget, nearly half of the deficit reduction measures taken to date have come out of the military, to the tune of half a trillion dollars."

Conversely, the President has maintained that a "balanced" mix of spending cuts, including more from defense, and tax reform is necessary to address the federal deficit.

"The President believes we can not only avoid the harmful effects of a sequester, but also reduce the deficit by $4 trillion total by cutting even more wasteful spending and eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy," states a Feb. 8 White fact sheet.

"Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. Our economy is poised to take off but we cannot afford a self-inflicted wound from Washington," it states, referencing the sequester.

Obama echoed similar sentiments in
his weekly address to the nation on Feb. 9.

He has called on Congress to pass an interim set of spending cuts and tax increases until lawmakers reach a longer term solution.

Republicans like McKeon have said they don't want sequestration, but it might be inevitable if Democrats continue to insist on reducing defense spending and raising taxes, while not making significant non-defense spending cuts.

"Republicans don't want to go into sequester, but the President will force us there if he insists on a plan that shirks his responsibility to the troops, that is bad for national security and bad for the economy," stated McKeon in a Feb. 6 press release.

Senate Democrats are expected to begin a "public pressure campaign" on the GOP this week, beginning with President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday, reported Politico.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Feb. 12 to discuss the impact of sequestration on the Pentagon. Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Frank Grass, and all four service Chiefs are expected to testify.

On Wednesday, the HASC has a hearing scheduled with the same lineup minus Hale.