- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2013

The Obama administration on Monday warned the nation to expect an increase in illegal immigration if the automatic budget cuts go into effect Friday — the latest caution from a White House determined to raise the heat on congressional Republicans.

President Obama has framed the choice as one between higher taxes or lower security, bolstered by Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano’s warning Monday that the U.S. Border Patrol will be forced to furlough agents, costing nearly a quarter of the workforce.

“I don’t think we can maintain the same level of security,” Ms. Napolitano said. “If you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents, you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents.”

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But Republicans said the White House is setting up “a false choice” between tax increases and security. They said the other alternative is to make $85 billion in spending cuts in other parts of the budget, rather than the across-the-board cuts that make up the sequester.

Indeed, Republican Senate aides said they likely will offer a plan to give the administration flexibility to protect key missions when the chamber debates the spending cut package this week. Senate Democrats have proposed a 30 percent minimum tax on the wealthy and cutting agriculture subsidies in order to head off the cuts. Neither plan is expected to pass.

The sequesters were set into motion by the 2011 debt deal, which gave Mr. Obama the authority to raise the federal debt limit in exchange for two sets of spending cuts. Mr. Obama has used up the debt leverage, but relatively few of the spending cuts have taken place.

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Congress and Mr. Obama delayed the sequesters in January’s tax deal, pushing the deadline to this Friday.

Now, both sides on Capitol Hill seem likely to let the cuts take effect and then wait to see who suffers in the political fallout.

Mr. Obama has spent the past several weeks trying to set the stage for Republicans to take the heat. Over the weekend, the White House said the cuts will mean fewer battered women receiving help in Kentucky, children having to forgo vaccines in Georgia and 350 teaching jobs being lost in Ohio.

On Monday, the president tried to rally the nation’s governors, in Washington this week for their annual meeting, to join his push for tax increases instead of facing those cuts.

“Unfortunately in just four days, Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts to kick in that will slow our economy,” Mr. Obama told the governors, gathered at the White House. “These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise.”

Firing back

Some Republican governors fired back, saying they asked Mr. Obama to delay some of his planned health care spending instead of cutting existing programs such as education.

“I said if these cuts really are that devastating, would he at least consider delaying some of the new spending instead of cutting existing programs? And he disagreed with that,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters. “He did not want to do that.”

Mr. Obama will continue to raise pressure on Republicans with a trip to Newport News, Va., on Tuesday, where he will visit a shipbuilding yard and argue that the cuts will idle a chunk of the Navy’s fleet. The trip, though, has done little to move Republicans, who said the president should be working with his own party leaders on Capitol Hill.

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