Thursday, July 24, 2014 · 12:21 a.m.

Tennessee lawmakers offer no hints at sequester deal

Deadline set to hit March 1

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The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: MGNOnline)

The White House forecast isn't pretty. 

Set to go into effect Friday, an $85 billion mix of automatic cuts known as the sequester will be implemented if Congress doesn't stop it. The cuts will hit especially hard in Tennessee. 

Millions in dollars for primary and secondary education will be lost, the Obama administration says.

An estimated 200 teacher and aide jobs will be put at risk.

Head Start services will be eliminated for 1,200 children.

Approximately 7,000 Department of Defense workers will be furloughed.

Approximately $1 million in funding for providing meals for seniors will disappear. 

All are line items in a White House forecast issued Sunday for Tennessee—part of a state-by-state prognosis for how sequestration will leave citizens on the hook for legislators' inability to broker a deal.

The White House estimates "hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs" would be threatened for elimination across the state if the congressionally mandated deadline is allowed to expire on March 1. 

According to a Tennessean report, the state stands to lose $350 million for programs over the next seven months.

The hit would be above average—accounting for 7.7 percent of state revenues as opposed to a 6.6 percent average nationwide, according to a recent study conducted by Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Lawmakers from Tennessee appear to have no intention of flexing to make an agreement happen, instead pointing blame to the White House for creating the problem and suggesting cuts need to happen for the nation's greater good. 

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said through a spokesman Monday that President Barack Obama hadn't shown proper leadership in his approach to the sequester and reminded voters he never supported the Budget Control Act of 2011—which created the framework that allowed the sequester to be put in motion. 

"The sequestration was President Obama's suggestion, and now, he's campaigning around the country trying to build fear around the consequences," Tyler Threadgill, press secretary for Fleischmann, said in an emailed statement. "Rep. Fleischmann voted against the president's sequestration and supported two bills that would have replaced it with responsible cuts. The congressman believes we need to cut spending, but just as a family wouldn't cut their food budget at the same rate as their entertainment, our government should make real budget decisions."

Threadgill's reference to sequestration being the president's idea comes from a passage of a recent book authored by Bob Woodward, in which the reporter revealed the sequester was the brain child of White House staffers and was personally approved by the president. Since then, Woodward's report has been espoused by Republicans quick to dispel Obama's attempts to lay the blame at the GOP's feet. 

Rep. Scott DesJarlais said Monday that the White House's dire forecast of the sequester's effects was nothing more than "disingenuous scare tactics" being used for political gain. DesJarlais also offered to shepherd Obama through the federal budget and show him where other cuts could replace the sequester.

"The White House has once again resorted to disingenuous scare tactics in order to avoid making any sort of meaningful spending cuts," DesJarlais said in an emailed statement. "The president's dishonest approach is emblematic of his administration's inability to put sound policy over partisan politics. There are numerous areas of waste, fraud and abuse that exist within the federal agencies that could easily be eliminated before essential services are cut. If the president needs help in identifying these common sense spending reductions, I am happy to walk him through the budget line by line." 

Neither the offices of Sen. Lamar Alexander nor Sen. Bob Corker provided answers to questions about their stances on the sequester in light of the White House projections. In the past, both Alexander and Corker have said their recent legislation, called the Dollar for Dollar Act, would effectively replace the cuts mandated by sequestration.

Last Wednesday, Alexander told Nooga.com he wanted to see more "presidential leadership" from Obama.

On Friday, Corker predicted the deadline would pass, despite being "ham-handed" and "painful" for those affected. 

"We should let it happen," he said.

Programs that are off limits from the sequester include funds designated for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. 

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