Senior Republican aides confirmed that the former vice president plans to meet with members House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and members of the GOP whip team to discuss Cheney’s concerns with how roughly $110 billion in Pentagon and non-defense spending cuts could affect national security and the economy.
The meeting comes as GOP leaders struck back Monday at reports in The Washington Post that Democrats appear willing to let nearly $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts to take effect in January unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher taxes for the nation’s wealthiest households. Senior Democrats now say they are prepared to accept a fiscal event that could plunge the nation back into recession if the new year arrives without an acceptable compromise.
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats “see a crisis coming, and they don’t want to waste it.”
“This is what passes for governance among Democrats these days: put the American people up against a wall, pick their pockets, and hope that in the midst of the scuffle they blame it — and the recession that would follow — on Republicans,” McConnell said.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) responded to the reports in a blog post, writing that “Instead of threatening to derail our economy, Democrats ought to help protect job creators from the president’s small business tax hike.”
Cheney's huddle with House Republicans, first reported by Politico, comes as they plan to vote this week on a bill that would require the White House to detail how it would implement the automatic spending cuts early next year. The Sequestration Transparency Act mirrors a proposal that has not advanced in the Senate, but is expected to easily sail through the House.
Ahead of the vote, congressional Republican leaders on Friday pushed Obama to engage in negotiations to defuse the automatic defense cuts by sending him a letter that accused the White House of not planning for the cuts.
Obama and top Democrats have said they also wish to avoid the spending cuts, but insist that they will do so only as part of a broad long-term deficit-reduction deal that includes cuts as well as new revenue from higher taxes on the wealthy.
Republicans hope the focus on defense cuts will hurt Obama in states with major military presences, especially Virginia — a must-win state for Obama and Romney.
Cheney’s visit to Capitol Hill signals that he is reengaging in political and policy debates after recovering from a heart transplant in March. His focus Tuesday on the effects of the automatic spending cuts — commonly referred to as “sequestration” — comes just days after Cheney hosted a fundraiser at his Wyoming ranch last week for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Since his vice presidency ended in 2009, Cheney has been no stranger on Capitol Hill. Most recently, last November he lunched with Senate Republicans and in March 2011 attended the formal unveiling of the official portrait of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
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