Sequestration = Scaaarrreeeeee!
That seems to be the reaction of many in Congress and the president to impending across-the-board cuts that will occur March 1st under an agreement that they struck in 2011.
Wait. Republicans and Democrats are running from the agreement they struck in 2011?
Back in mid-2011, Republicans didn’t want to raise the debt ceiling any further without some assurance that spending would come under control, so they bargained with the president for an increase in the debt ceiling and cuts in spending.
In the Budget Control Act, they worked up a plan: They created a “super committee” to try and come up with ideas for cuts. If Congress failed to pass a deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, then Congress could grant a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling but this would trigger across-the-board cuts in spending (“sequestration”). The cuts would be equally split between security and non-security programs.
The super committee didn’t come up with anything Congress could pass, and Congress didn’t pass any bill, so now there are cuts—er, sequestration—coming to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and a whole bunch of other government agencies.
Sequestration has now drawn near, and many of our political leaders think it’s HORRIBLE!
The reasons are many. One is that people in government and the businesses that sell to government have whipped up a bit of sequestration panic. This Politico story reports, for example, that the Aerospace Industries Association has spent nearly $2 million over the past 18 months trying to generate news stories that will incline Washington, D.C. to stop sequestration.
Congress is responding, and a number of bills have been introduced to delay, replace, or whittle back on the looming threat of sequestration. For example:
S. 277 would get rid of sequestration and “close tax loopholes”—raising revenue by broadening the tax base. So would S. 278. (We’re relying on their summaries here. Being sure that those summaries are accurate would take some study.)
H.R. 505 would “repeal sequester while achieving balance in deficit reduction between revenue and cuts, and between non-defense cuts and defense cuts.” It would also “invest in job creation.” (We sometimes “quote” because we “don’t know what that means.”)
H.R. 607 has a little bit of everything. It would delay until 2016 certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and it would delay the application of sequestration until 2014. (Y’ever see someone kick two cans down the road at the same time?)
H.R. 729 would exempt the National Institutes of Health from sequestration, reducing the spending cuts to do so. We don’t want health institutes affected by sequestration, do we?
H.R. 773 would exempt the Department of Defense from sequestration, which was—might as well call the whole thing off, if you’re going to do that!
What Congress does, as always, is up to you. Let your own member of Congress and senators know what you think. Put your thinking in the comment sections of these bills. Other people just like you will be looking to see what people like you are saying. Then watch and see what happens. For some in Washington, the coming days are scaaarrreeeeee!