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Harry Reid pitches plan to repeal automatic budget cuts

Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 1:19 p.m.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday he'll press ahead with new legislation to repeal automatic spending cuts that are now beginning to sting.

Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to use savings from the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan to repeal the cuts, called sequestration. The effects are beginning to ripple through the government and the economy, most visibly with delays in air travel caused by the furloughs of air traffic controllers.

The timing of Reid's effort wasn't clear and it faces long odds. Republicans are sure to oppose the move because they see the idea of claiming savings from war funding as gimmickry. The money, Republicans and many budget experts say, was never intended to be spent in the first place and shouldn't fuel other spending.

At issue are across-the-board spending cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration and 8 percent to the Pentagon that began to take effect in March. They are required because of the failure of Washington to follow up a 2011 budget pact with additional spending cuts.

The cuts total $85 billion through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year and would require many federal workers to absorb pay cuts with forced furlough days. Lawmakers have been particularly upset with the air traffic delays and announced closures of control towers at rural airports. Economists warn that the cuts will slow the recovery of the economy but Republicans and President Barack Obama have been unable to agree on a way to repeal them and replace them with other cuts or tax increases.

The Senate is currently debating legislation that would empower states to require online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. That legislation is expected to occupy the chamber through the end of the work week; senators are expected to then break for a one-week vacation.

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