“I’ve got to give Scott Rigell credit. He is one of your Republican congressmen who’s with us here today — and that’s not always healthy for a Republican, being with me,” Obama said. “But the reason he’s doing it is because he knows it’s important to you. And he’s asked his colleagues in the House to consider closing tax loopholes instead of letting these automatic cuts go through.”
Rigell told reporters on Air Force One that although the country needs to cut spending, “I also believe that revenue has to come up a bit, first by growing the economy, but also by tax reform, which also includes eliminating lobbyist-inspired, lobbyist-written loopholes.”
Republican leaders seemed uninterested, though, and announced that their first big bill of the year would be an overhaul of the tax code that would not raise the overall tax burden. In exchange for scaling back tax breaks, Republicans plan to lower rates.
“I’m not interested in new revenue at this point,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Tuesday.
With its decision to release detainees in immigration facilities, the Obama administration sought to make clear the impact of the sequester.
The move drew heavy GOP criticism. “The last thing you would do to meet a budget cut of this size would be to voluntarily undertake actions that undermine the rule of law and endanger the public safety,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.).
House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) said in an interview on CBS, “I, frankly, think this is outrageous.”
Historically, many illegal immigrants released from federal detention centers while in deportation proceedings do not show up for subsequent court appearances, joining the ranks of what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement calls absconders or “fugitive aliens.”
The agency has estimated that detention costs $122 per bed per day. It has been under pressure by immigration advocacy and civil rights groups to rely on cheaper detention alternatives for those in deportation proceedings who do not pose a security threat. More cost-effective alternatives include electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring, telephone monitoring and community-based monitoring programs.
In a news briefing Monday before the releases were announced, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano indicated that sequestration would affect detention policy. “I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration,” she said. “How do I pay for those?”
William Branigin, Sari Horwitz, Paul Kane, Lori Montgomery and Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.