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White House Details 2013 Cuts If Congress Doesn't Avert Fiscal Cliff
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White House Details 2013 Cuts If Congress Doesn't Avert Fiscal Cliff


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The White House today released a report detailing in part what life would look like on the other side of the so-called fiscal cliff. Under orders from Congress, the administration detailed exactly how it would administer painful cuts to both defense and domestic programs that we ordered under last year's budget deal. As NPR's Julie Rovner reports, these cuts aren't supposed to happen, but that hasn't stopped them from becoming fodder for the ongoing campaign.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: The cuts, known as a sequester, are sort of a potential punishment Congress imposed on itself in last year's budget control act. The idea, as White House press secretary Jay Carney pointed out in today's briefing, was to make them so distasteful that Congress would agree to a better way to reduce the deficit.

JAY CARNEY: Sequester was designed to be bad policy, to be onerous, to be objectionable to both Democrats and Republicans.

ROVNER: But finding a more palatable solution hasn't happened, at least not yet. And when the White House demurred at offering details about how it would administer the cuts that were ordered by the law, Congress insisted. The result is 394 pages of details of the programs that would get knifed, those that wouldn't and by how much. For example, the National Institutes of Health would lose $2.5 billion, the Food Safety and Inspection Service $86 million and Customs and Border Protection $712 million. But the biggest concern, by far, has been over the scheduled 9.4 percent cut to most defense programs. Republicans, who overwhelming voted for the bill that put the cuts into play, have nonetheless been blaming the president for failing to cancel them. This was South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson who voted against the bill on the House floor this morning.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE WILSON: The president supports sequestration and has done nothing to halt the defense budget cuts which will limit the capabilities of our armed forces.

ROVNER: There's still time to cancel the cuts but it's running out. House leaders have announced they will recess until Election Day after next week. That means the only opportunity to hammer out a deal to prevent the automatic cuts will come in a post-election lame duck session. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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