U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander held a press conference this afternoon and placed the blame for the fast-approaching sequester squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.
"If this sequester goes into effect on Friday, as the law requires, it will be a complete failure of presidential leadership, and ought to be a grave embarrassment to President Obama," Alexander said.
He also said that the biggest problem the nation is facing is the automatic spending increases in entitlement programs. And, he said, he has a plan to reduce those increases with a gentler touch.
"Senator [Bob] Corker and I have, for months, introduced a program to reduce spending by the same amount as the sequester. We're doing it where it really makes a difference, which would be in the automatic spending increases that are about to bankrupt the country. If we adopted the Corker-Alexander plan, that would help make sure that Medicare is there for the seniors who need it," he said. He did not mention any preservation of Medicaid funds.
Alexander, who's a member of the Senate appropriations committee, said the sequester is an easy problem to fix. It's the president's job, the senator said, to send Congress a spending plan. If the president would send a six-month spending plan, Alexander said the Senate could pass a budget bill in two weeks (no word on how long it would take the House).
Alexander also pointed out that Tennessee had to make some significant budget cuts, and that effort was led by Gov. Bill Haslam.
"You didn't see the governor going around the state whining and complaining about [the cuts]. He just called in the budget officers and university presidents and they worked out a way to do it. That's what the president should be doing," he said.
In response to extremely negative public opinion of Congress' behavior during this battle, Alexander said "I think they should have a negative response to the idea of the sequester," but did not say that Congress deserves to be held responsible.
Ultimately, Alexander says the president has been the one wasting the last year by not meeting with Congressional leaders in order to hammer out a deal.
"Everyone has known for 18 months that they needed a better way to [make cuts], yet the first day that the president has called legislative leaders to the White House is on Friday, the day it goes into effect. If he'd spent one tenth of the time to change the sequester as he has campaigning around the country using scare tactics, we'd have the problem resolved," he said.