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Hatch wants to cut travel, research arts — not military

Published February 27, 2013 2:55 pm

Politics • Top Republican on Finance Committee releases alternate plan.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch released his proposal to replace the automatic and painfully broad spending cuts slated to kick in on Friday with big reductions in federal travel budgets, weather research and arts funding.

What he isn't willing to do is accept any new tax revenue or reduce the $44 billion in cuts expected to take effect this calendar year as part of sequestration.

"The Republicans are not going to give on sequester and we believe you can find the cost savings without much hurt to anybody," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Hatch, like many within his party, have a love-hate relationship with sequestration, which was originally designed as a threat to spur lawmakers to come up with more reasonable and responsible spending reductions.

A bipartisan "supercommittee" failed to reach an agreement and President Barack Obama and congressional leaders haven't fared any better. There seems to be little chance that Congress will stop it from going into effect on Friday

For Republicans like Hatch, sequestration may be irrational, resulting in furloughs for thousands of federal workers, but it is better than not cutting the budget at all.

"None of us want to go through the sequester," Hatch said. "We know that it is one of the dumbest ways to try to get some sort of resolution on spending but it is the only way right now."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, feels much the same way. He didn't vote for the 2011 debt ceiling deal that created sequestration, but he's happy that something is going to force a reduction in future spending.

"I was elected and campaigned on the idea that we were going to cut federal spending, so now that we are actually doing it, hallelujah," he said. "But how we do it is very important."

Hatch's plan would freeze federal salary bumps based on where in the nation the employee lives, reduce the government's advertising budgets and eliminate funding for public media, among other cuts. He wouldn't cut defense spending at all.

Under sequestration, the Defense Department would have to go without $500 billion in the next 10 years, something that Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, argues would gut the military.

Bishop, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said: "If this was the first cut the military had to face I would say you can live with it, but it's the third cut and that is where I don't think people are taking this as seriously as it is going to be."

Bishop's district includes Hill Air Force Base, where thousands of workers may face a furlough if Congress doesn't act.

Chaffetz said the parties should be able to find the money in what he considers a bloated federal budget and he's open to taking some of that money from the Defense Department.

"I do believe there ought to be cuts in defense," he said. "I still believe there is a lot of waste, fraud and abuse."

mcanham@sltrib.com