Key Republican: Congress will repeal sequestration cuts

Congress will likely act to repeal the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration during the budgeting process, one of the top Republicans on the Armed Services committee said Feb. 9.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA., the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee overseeing readiness and civilian employees, said he thinks sequestration repeal has to happen in this congress, when lawmakers work to craft agency budgets for the next fiscal year.

"I do think there is a good chance that through the budgeting process that sequestration will be set aside," Wittman said at the American Federation of Government Employees annual legislative conference in Washington.

Sequestration placed budget caps on total Defense and non-defense spending, while legislation congress passed in 2013 lifted those caps through fiscal 2015. But the cuts will return in force in fiscal 2016 unless Congress acts.

He said while there is a strong desire to set those cuts aside, the area where Congress can agree on is the Defense Department sequestration cuts, while lawmakers would have to figure out how to juggle non-defense spending by civilian agencies.

"At least the defense spending sequester will be set aside. I think with all the dangers we see around the world it has to be," Wittman said.

He also supports the idea of a pay raise for federal employees, but said he has not yet arrived at a number yet. President Obama proposed a 1.3 percent pay raise for 2016 while some Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a 3.8 percent pay raise.

"I will be advocating to make sure we do all we can to support our federal employees," Wittman said. But he added that part of the raise might be merit-based instead of an inflationary cost-of-living adjustment.

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