The Washington Post

Congress opens with little sign of work on sequester

Congress has officially returned to business after a week-long recess, but there is no new sign of serious negotiations to avert sequestration on Friday.

In opening remarks for the week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) challenged Republican claims that President Obama is responsible for the looming, $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts because the White House proposed the idea during the 2011 debt fight.Reid noted that  Democratic and Republican lawmakers voted to approve the proposal.

"We did this together," Reid said. "This would not have passed but for the overwhelming vote of the Republicans in the House and in the Senate. If those same Republicans would work with Democrats to find a balanced way to reduce the deficit...[Congress could] reverse the austerity sequester today," he said.

A Senate Republican aide said Monday that party Senate leaders plan to advance competing sequestration measures on Wednesday. By unanimous consent, both sides have agreed that either measure would need 60 votes to proceed, meaning that each measure is bound to fail.

The Democratic version would delay the sequester until January, paid for in part by reducing agricultural subsidies and raising taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. The aide said the specifics of the Republican version would be unveiled later Monday and that it would leave the cuts in place but would allow more flexibility in how to implement them.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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