Top Senate Republican doesn’t see a way to avoid the sequester

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

Vice President Joe Biden is known as "The McConnell whisperer" for his ability to broker compromises between Democrats and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but his charms may not work on the Kentucky lawmaker when it comes to the impending sequester.

The federal government will face the sequester—massive automatic budget cuts—should Congress not vote on a package of alternate cuts by March 1. The original deadline was Jan. 1—but Biden had negotiated a deal with McConnell at the last minute that put it off for two months. (Both deadlines were a consequence of not reaching an agreement on a bipartisan deficit reduction deal in 2011.)

Republicans and Democrats have both proposed plans to replace the $2.1 trillion in across-the-board cuts with more reasonable measures, but McConnell said he doesn't foresee enough time to reach a compromise before the deadline.

"Read my lips: I'm not interested in an 11th-hour negotiation," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "It's pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect. I see no evidence that the House plans to act on this matter before the end of the month."

President Barack Obama has called for a plan to avoid the automatic cuts with a bill that includes more tax increases, but Republicans immediately rejected it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said that Senate Democrats were drafting a bill that achieves $2.1 trillion in savings through an equal amount of spending cuts and tax increases, but McConnell said he does not expect it to pass.

"The majority is going to offer a proposal. I anticipate that we will have an alternative proposal. That, however, doesn't lead to a solution, it just leads to a couple of votes," McConnell said.

Although the possibilities that McConnell and Biden will reach a deal together appear dim—McConnell said he had no plans to meet with the vice president—Reid indicated on Tuesday that he had a personal meeting scheduled with House Speaker John Boehner about the issue later this week.

The last time the two men were in the same room, however, Boehner began the meeting by urging Reid to attempt an anatomically impossible act, an encounter Reid said Tuesday he has not since forgotten.