As delayed travellers and even airline companies begin to bemoan the effects of forced federal budget cuts on air travel, the Senate has once again turned its attention to possible ways to delay or halt sequestration.
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might have found a solution that works on both a practical and political scale.
On Tuesday, Reid introduced a bill that would temporarily halt the implementation of further sequester cuts for five months. The cost would be covered by using war savings from the Overseas Contingency Operation fund, which contains more than $500 billion in unspent money, due to troop drawbacks and downscaling of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republicans have already objected to the bill as a gimmick — but Reid has an answer for that.
According to analysis from the Bipartisan Policy centre, the latest budget from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) assumes a downward trajectory of OCO funding.
“Before Republicans dismiss these savings, they should recall that 235 House Republicans voted to use these funds to pay for the Ryan Republican budget,” Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “They didn’t consider it a gimmick when it served their own purposes.”
Ryan’s staff said Tuesday that Reid was misrepresenting Ryan’s budget. But in the past, his office has cited the fact that the budget would save “$1 trillion from phasing down overseas contingency operations.”
Therein lies the potential conundrum for Republicans: As public outcry builds over the cuts of the sequester — particularly over airport delays, which affect a large number of Americans — the GOP may be hard-pressed to oppose a measure that would ease temporarily ease the sequester pain while giving both sides more time to come to a larger budget resolution.
A Reid aide said that the Majority Leader would attempt to move forward with the bill when the Senate returns from next week’s recess. White House press secretary Jay Carney signaled that President Barack Obama is on board with the proposal, saying Wednesday that Obama thinks it is a “good” strategy.
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