- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Senators on Wednesday passed and sent to President Obama a bill that would force him to lay out exactly which federal programs he would cut if the automatic trims put in place by last year’s debt deal go into effect in January.

The bill, passed without any objections in the Senate just a week after clearing the House almost unanimously, puts pressure on Mr. Obama.

If he signs it, he would have to explain exactly where he’d find hundreds of billions of dollars in savings — which would give opponents a chance to rally to try to force a change in the automatic sequesters. If Mr. Obama vetoes the measure he would be going against an overwhelming majority in Congress.

Republicans hope to use the information to highlight the troubles they say the Defense Department will face if it has to absorb the looming cuts.

“The American people deserve to know what the true impact of the president’s plan for sequestration will be on our national defense,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who sponsored the bill.

The White House did not issue an official statement of policy on the legislation as it was working its way through Congress — something it does for most major bills that are likely to come to the president’s desk — so it’s not certain what Mr. Obama will do.

The bill gives the president 30 days from the time he signs it into law to deliver a report to Congress.

Last year’s debt deal called for more than $1 trillion in automatic cuts to take effect at the beginning of 2013 and to stretch over the next decade, unless Congress found another way to make up the savings.

The so-called deficit supercommittee was supposed to recommend budget changes that would offset the automatic cuts, but it failed to produce an agreement and the cuts are still slated to take effect.

The first year’s cuts total $110 billion, and are evenly divided among defense and other programs.

House Republicans have already pushed through a bill to turn off the automatic cuts and replace them with cuts to entitlement programs, but Senate Democrats have rejected that approach. They have not been able to pass an alternative through their chamber.

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