OMB plans for sequestration as Congress talks debt ceiling

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The Office of Management and Budget has asked federal agencies for additional information to finalize contingency plans if sequestration goes into effect should the Obama administration and Congress fail to reach a budget agreement, says White House spokesman Jay Carney.

In a Dec. 5 press briefing, Carney said that the administration is confident it can reach a deal to avoid sequestration, but OMB is taking precautions "to ensure that the administration is ready to issue such an order should Congress fail to act."

Earlier this week, OMB "issued a request to federal agencies for additional information to finalize calculations on the spending reductions that would be required," Carney said, adding that step shouldn't be seen as a change in commitment to reach an agreement and avoid sequestration.

In a Dec. 4 briefing, Carney addressed the rumor of Republican plans to tie raising the debt ceiling to fiscal negotiations, saying "We're not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, which is to pay the bills that Congress incurred.  It should be part of the deal. It should be done and it should be done without drama."

Some Republicans have publically talked about holding off on raising the debt ceiling until a budget deal is reached. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Dec. 4 while speaking on Fox Broadcasting's Sean Hannity show that congressional Republicans are "not going to raise the debt ceiling ever again until we address what got us in debt, and that's government spending and entitlement growth."

President Obama, speaking at the Business Roundtable on Dec. 5, said "if Congress in any way suggests that they're going to tie negotiations to debt ceiling votes" that he "will not play that game because we've got to break that habit before it starts."

Obama called the move bad for business and quoted Business Roundtable president John Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan, who said the debt ceiling is "not a good weapon for anything except destroying our own credit rating."

The Treasury Department has advocated that Congress permit automatic raises to the debt ceiling unless Congress were to vote against it by a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.

In a Dec. 5 statement, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not mention the debt ceiling and said that the president has "rejected spending cuts that he has supported previously and refuses to identify serious spending cuts he is willing to make."

For more:
- read the Dec. 5 and Dec. 4 White House press briefings
- read a copy of the president's remarks
- see Boehner's statement

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