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February 28. 2013 12:58PM

On Senate floor, Ayotte pleads to save military from sequestration

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Thursday urged the Senate to consider her alternative bill that she said would achieve the same overall cuts as the looming sequestration but save the military from the budget axe.

On the eve of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration kicking in, the Senate rejected competing Democratic and Republican alternatives.

Before the votes, Ayotte said those upcoming votes would be a “charade.”

“I put pen to paper,” she said on the Senate floor, explaining that her amendment “comes out to $250 billion in savings over 10 years” to avoid the sequester and save the military from massive cuts.

She said the idea of a sequester was a “kick-the-can-down-the-road” approach that should have been avoided by “us doing our job” and working through what is supposed to be the normal budgeting process.”

She said the military “has already taken $487 billion in reductions to our defense,” and, military leaders have warned that sequestration would “hollow out our defense.”

She said she realized her alternative would not be up for a vote Thursday but she offered it as a starting point for discussion.

Ayotte was supported by her two partners in the new so-called “three amigos” triad -- Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

But she also won praise for her “energy” and work on the measure from powerful Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said her plan “finds alternative savings that would be used to replace the Fiscal Year 2013 sequester for defense and non-defense discretionary spending.”

A statement from Ayotte’s office said her plan included cuts “based on recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles Fiscal Commission, the Government Accountability Office, and from the president’s budget. This includes reducing duplication in federal programs and agencies, extending the current pay freeze for federal workers and members of Congress, and reforming federal worker and member of Congress retirement programs.  The bill also reduces abuse of the additional child tax credit, which the U.S. Treasury Department’s Inspector General found billions in fraudulent claims.”

Ayotte’s plan also would eliminate federal funds for unemployment benefits for millionaires and would close a loophole exploited by some states to make otherwise ineligible households eligible for certain welfare benefits.

Ayotte “has worked for over a year to find alternative savings to replace indiscriminate sequestration cuts,” her office said.




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