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McCain says ‘maybe’ to taxes to avert sequester


Sen. John McCain’s comments come as the White House pushes back against charge that Obama is to blame for the cuts. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that he is willing to consider supporting new tax revenue as part of a plan to avert $85 billion in looming budget cuts, as the White House pushed back against Republican lawmakers who say President Obama is solely responsible for the spending reductions.

McCain made the comments as he once again warned about the adverse effects of the spending reductions, known as sequestration, that will require federal agencies to slash $85 billion in spending by Sept. 30 — including $43 billion at the Pentagon.

“Republicans and Democrats are responsible for this new cliff and I’ll take responsibility for it for the Republicans,” McCain said of the spending cuts. “But we’ve got to avoid it. We’ve got to stop it.”

Averting the cuts “requires bipartisanship,” McCain added. “Will I look at revenue closers? Maybe so. But we’ve already just raised taxes. Why do we have to raise taxes again?”

McCain, who made his comments on “Fox News Sunday,” has spoken out regularly about how the budget cuts could affect the military. His sentiments echoed those of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who recently said that the sequester would turn the U.S. military “into a second-rate power.”

Projected U.S. budget deficits. (The Washington Post/Source: Congressional Budget Office)

Despite McCain’s openness to possible new tax revenues, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told ABC’s “This Week” that House Republicans would oppose new taxes as part of any short-term deal to turn off the cuts because, “The president’s accepted no spending cuts back in the fiscal cliff deal 45 days ago.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Sunday joined a growing GOP push to pin the blame for sequestration squarely on Obama. “The president, he’s the one who proposed this sequester in the first place,” Cantor told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“He’s not moved in any serious way,” Cantor said. “But we remain anxiously waiting for him to come to the table to work with us to solve this problem.”

Administration officials pushed back against Cantor’s comments, noting that Obama’s plan to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion by using a mix of spending cuts, new taxes and cuts in entitlement programs had been rejected by congressional Republicans.

“We must make sure we are having a debate over how to deal with these looming deadlines that is based on facts — not myths being spread by some congressional Republicans who would rather see these cuts hit than ask the wealthiest and big corporations to pay a little bit more,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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