- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday it is time for the GOP to relent and jettison the so-called sequester caps on spending as the parties march toward a possible government shutdown this fall.

Majority Republicans have abided by the caps as the House marches through the appropriations process, clearing six of the 12 spending bills for fiscal 2016 despite repeated objections from President Obama.

The House is set this week to consider the seventh — a bill that funds the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and related agencies.

But Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies say the bills do not adequately fund America’s priorities, and Senate Democrats have begun to block the bills in the upper chamber, setting up a blame game as Congress marches toward a potential shutdown in October.

Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said his party will object as long as Republicans abide by the across-the-board sequester cuts conceived in 2011, when the parties couldn’t agree on ways to reduce the deficit.

“It is ill-conceived in that it was not based upon our needs and opportunities and challenges, but simply on an arbitrary number,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters.

A spokeswoman for House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican, said he, too, “continues to believe that sequestration is a bad way to fund the federal government, and that a solution to this budget issue must be found.”

“He has called on the president to come to the table and work with House and Senate leaders to find mandatory savings that can be used to provide relief for discretionary cuts, including risky and potentially harmful cuts to our national defense,” said the spokeswoman, Jennifer Hing.

The GOP boosted defense using an off-budget, overseas war account to match Mr. Obama’s budget request without busting the sequester caps, an end-run that members of both parties have derided as a gimmick.

Democrats have insisted on dollar-for-dollar increases in domestic spending alongside defense, yet House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others have accused congressional Democrats of demanding tax increases to pay for new spending.

As Congress inches toward a shutdown showdown, Mr. Hoyer said it’s time to reach the type of deal that Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, struck in late 2013 to avert a government shutdown and ease the sequester limits on defense and domestic programs.

“We need negotiations similar to Ryan-Murry to get to a rational solution,” he said.

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