Entries in Sequestration (9)


GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Says ‘President Failed to Act’ on Sequestration

Office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers(WASHINGTON) -- House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered the GOP address this week and called for President Obama and Senate Democrats to negotiate a solution to the devastating spending cuts, known as the sequester.

Rodgers explains, “This debate is about more than just numbers and politics. It’s about the kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren.  Do we want to hand them a mountain of debt and all the worries that go with it, or do we want them to inherit a vibrant economy and a future full of opportunity? This is the debate we’ve been having for quite a while, and it’s time we resolve it and get something done.”

“Yesterday, across-the-board spending cuts known as ‘the sequester’ took effect because President Obama and Senate Democrats failed to act.  These devastating across-the-board cuts, first proposed by the president, will affect the lives of so many hardworking Americans,” Rodgers laments.

“The president failed to act” because “he never passed a bill to replace the sequester,” even though “the House of Representatives passed two proposals to replace the president’s sequester with smarter spending cuts” within the last year.

“This debate hasn’t always been easy, but making Washington confront its spending problem after decades of inaction was never going to be simple. We were elected to confront the hard truths, come together and do the right thing. That’s the American way, and that’s how we’ll achieve the kind of future our children and grandchildren deserve. All it will take is for the president and his party to get serious and lead,” Rodgers concludes.  

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Hope Springs Eternal’ for Obama on Budget Cuts

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With one week to go until sweeping budget cuts kick in, President Obama on Friday said avoiding the so-called sequester is a “no-brainer” and that lawmakers still have the “opportunity to make the right decisions.”

Obama told reporters he does not think the $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts are “inevitable,” as mandated if  Congress fails to agree on a deficit-reduction bill.

“We always have the opportunity to make the right decisions, and I’ve been very clear that these kinds of arbitrary, automatic cuts would have an adverse impact on families, on teachers, on parents who are reliant on Head Start programs, on our military readiness, on mental health services, on medical research,” he said. “This is not a smart way for us to reduce the deficit.”

The president pledged to continue conversations with members of Congress about how to avoid the likely painful cuts, which he said would “slow down the recovery.”

“My hope is that we can see a different course taken by Congress,” he said. “This should be a no-brainer.”

Asked about the realistic chances a deal can be reached in the next week, Obama said simply, “hope springs eternal.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Says Stopgap Measure Only Way to Avoid Sequestration Deadline

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The  White House says that a short-term resolution may be the only workable option to avoid triggering the sweeping package of federal budget cuts known as “the sequester,” unless Congress can reach a broader deficit-reduction agreement.

Lawmakers have a legally mandated deadline of March 1 to select $85 billion in cuts from the nation’s $3.8 trillion budget. But with little indication of progress and Congress in recess this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the chances of an agreement were slim.

“There is no way to do this — $85 billion over that short window of time?” he said at a press briefing. “There is no way, if you follow the law written by Congress, that implementation of these cuts would not have the draconian, drastic effects that the president talked about today and that everybody has written about, that has talked about or everybody who’s spoken about this has made clear will happen.”

The comment came the same day President Obama assailed the lack of progress in coming up with a resolution to avoid the cuts, which he said would take a “meat cleaver” approach to the country’s fiscal issues.

Should the deadline pass without a solution, the sequester would cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years to the budget, equally divided among defense and non-defense spending. Last week, Senate Democrats proposed delaying the measures using a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes that would push the deadline into 2014.

On Sunday, newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said finding the cuts necessary to avoid the trigger was “not impossible.” But in his interview with Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl, he continued to stress the Democratic party’s position on what they call a “balanced” approach, pairing spending cuts with closing tax loopholes on the wealthy.

“The question isn’t whether we’re going to insist on some position because that’s the ideologically right position,” he said on ABC News’ This Week. “This should not be a social science experiment. This should be a question where we ask ourselves, what is most important to the economy, what is most important to the middle-class families of this country, and that’s the way the president is going to do this.”

Republicans have drawn a line in the sand over this question of tax reform, which they purport would be a tax increase in all but name.  Stating that the president already achieved enough in new revenue during the recent “fiscal cliff” budget ordeal, some party members have publicly said they would rather see the mandatory spending cuts take effect than budge again.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republicans Don’t Budge After Obama Shames Congress on TV

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The so-called sequester seems more unavoidable than ever as lawmakers enjoying a nine-day recess in the comfort of their districts watched President Obama shame them publicly on television, part of the president’s effort to pressure Congress to strike a deal to delay the first wave of arbitrary spending cuts scheduled to hit at month’s end.

The president Tuesday called on Congress to close tax loopholes to raise half the amount in a package of alternative savings to offset the sequester. But in a statement after the president’s address, House Speaker John Boehner rejected his proposal and reiterated that any revenue achieved by closing loopholes should be utilized to lower individual rates via comprehensive tax overhaul, not to pay for more spending.

“Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus.”

With about $2.7 trillion in revenue in 2013 and about $3.8 trillion in spending, the $85 billion sequester cut this year represents a 2.2-percent reduction in spending in FY2013, or less than one-half of one percent of the growing $16.5 trillion federal debt.

Boehner also pointed out that the House passed legislation twice in the previous Congress that demonstrated how his party would replace across-the-board cuts. He has maintained that Senate Democrats should vote to pass their own plan before the House acts again.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized the GOP’s strategy, saying that “America cannot afford more Republican obstruction and delay.” She called on Republicans to come together with Democrats to “strengthen the middle class, create jobs, expand our economy and responsibly bring down the deficit.”

“Republican inaction will simply leave the indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts in place, threatening jobs, undermining public safety and first responders, injecting uncertainty into our markets, and harming our economy,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. “The last thing we should do is nothing.  The clock is ticking and the deadline is fast approaching."

Both chambers of Congress are out of session, and a solution before March 1 would require something that has become characteristic of Congress in the past three years of divided government: another last-minute agreement.

In August 2011, while the country’s ability to honor its debt obligations hung in question, lawmakers came together to pass the Budget Control Act, which not only raised the debt ceiling and cut more than $1 trillion in the next decade, it also created the doomed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Supercommittee, which ended its negotiations in a stalemate in November 2011.

Still, the sequester wasn’t scheduled to take effect for 12 more months, leaving lawmakers plenty of leeway to find alternative savings. But because a two-month delay was the best on which Congress could agree as part of the fiscal cliff agreement, time is once again running short.

Even though Congress is in recess, lawmakers continue to mull the impact the cuts will have in their districts.

The House of Representatives meets next for legislative business Feb. 25, beginning a four-day workweek that ends when sequestration takes hold March 1.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sequestration: DC's Weird Idea of Cuts

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It's the dirtiest word in Washington right now: "sequester."

Formerly wrapped up in the "fiscal cliff" that was poised to wreck America's economy at the end of the year, the dreaded "sequester" is the spending half of that taxes-and-spending equation: It amounts to across-the-board budget cuts that will strike in March, barring an agreement on deficit reduction.

The "sequester" is yet another deadline in a long line of fiscal-policy stalemates that have hounded the U.S. political system in the last two years. Because its origins were esoteric and convoluted, the "sequester" is shrouded in a degree of Washington policy mystique.

Hopefully a few answers can de-mystify it:

What Is the Sequester?

Across-the-board budget cuts. On March 1, barring agreement on a broader deficit-reduction package, many federal programs will see across-the board automatic spending reductions take effect over the next 10 years.

The 10-year cuts will total $1.2 trillion, and they'll apply equally to defense and non-defense spending.

What Will Be Cut?

Federal agencies and their budgets, including defense spending. Both mandatory and discretionary spending will be cut.

Different kinds of spending will be hit harder by percent. In September, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that if the cuts occurred as projected in January, discretionary defense spending would be cut by 9.4 percent in Fiscal Year 2013, mandatory defense spending would be cut by 10 percent, discretionary nondefense spending would be cut by 8.2 percent, mandatory nondefense spending would be cut by 7.6 percent, and Medicare and other mandatory health programs would be cut by 2 percent.

Some vital programs, however, will be exempt.

What Will Be Spared?

Thankfully for beneficiaries, the sequester won't touch some of the most popular and relied-upon elements of the social safety net.

Medicare, for instance, will be cut -- but under a special rule that limits spending reductions to 2 percent, and which also prevents any benefits from being reduced. Sequestration cuts would come in the form of lower payments to doctors, hospitals and private insurers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Other programs are totally exempt. Those include Social Security, all programs administered by the Veterans Administration, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), welfare (a.k.a. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF), Pell grants, food stamps (a.k.a. the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), and Medicare Part D low-income subsidies, among other programs.

Nobody knows exactly how it will play out. In January, the Congressional Research Service wrote, "Ultimately, the execution and impact of any automatic spending reduction ... will depend in large part on the legal interpretations and actions taken by OMB."

Why Does the Sequester Have to Happen?

It doesn't!

Congress and the president gave themselves a requirement to find $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years, and they could still find a way to reach that goal before March 1. That could be tough, and barring a political miracle, sequestration will likely take effect for a few weeks.

At the same time, sequestration only looms as a possibility because Congress and the president wrote it into a law -- and they could just as easily rewrite it. They've already extended their deadline twice, and, unlikely as it may be, there's no reason why Congress and Obama couldn't simply write a new law that makes "sequestration" go away. If sequestration is an artificial crisis, it can be artificially undone.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Four-Hour Airport Security Screenings? Administration Warns of Sequester Impact

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday held a hearing on the wide-ranging impacts of the looming issue of sequestration that could take effect March 1. Senators held the hearing as Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., are considering legislation to replace sequestration.
Office of Management and Budget federal controller Danny Werfel also joined the hearing, along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
“I think it's a bad idea. I think it's bad policy. I think it's bad economic policy. I think it's bad governance policy. And I really don't like it,” Sen. Mikulski said Thursday of the sequester.
“Sequestration is bad policy, and the administration believes the Congress should pass balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction to avoid it,” OMB federal controller Danny Werfel added.
Werfel testified that if the sequester is allow to occur, it would have "significant and destructive consequences for domestic investments, national security and core government services."
Sec. Napolitano warned in her testimony that the effects of sequestration would have wide-ranging impacts at DHS, which could impact international trade with increased wait times at borders and a reduction in hours worked by customs officials.

“At the major international airports, average wait times to clear customs will increase by 50 percent. And in our busiest airports like Newark and JFK, LAX and Chicago O'Hare, peak wait times, which can already reach over two hours, could grow to four hours or more,” Napolitano said.  

She added that wait times at major land and sea ports would be forced to shut down during core hours, with delays in container examinations increasing up to five days. Napolitano said this would ultimately result in "increased cost to the trade community and reduced availability of consumer goods and raw materials.”
“The plain fact of the matter is the administration has put record amounts of resources at the [Southwest] border. As someone who comes from the border I can say that needs to be sustained and built upon,” Napolitano told the committee members.
Duncan said that cuts to the Department of Education would harm children.
“None of these are good choices,” Duncan said. “We have to invest. And so the idea that somehow we can kick the -- you know, kick the can down the road and just try a little more flexibility leaves us in a situation which, just again, many hundreds of thousands of young people will be hurt.”

Asked by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., about the cuts of USDA food and meat inspectors, OMB’s Werfel testified that the way the program is funded there is no way to find additional funds to keep inspectors working.
“And there is no way in which to find other sources of funds because 88 percent of the entire budget are those very people that need to be at those meat plants doing that inspection to keep them open,” Werfel said, adding, “So this is one of the very tangible and clear and significant impacts of sequester is that -- is that this division within USDA will not be able to make its core mission of sending the inspectors to these locations, and therefore, under appropriate laws and regulations, there'll be stoppages of work within those areas. So it's a very serious concern.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Republicans Propose Alternate Plan to Avert Sequestration

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- GOP members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees made a proposal on Wednesday that delays automatic spending cuts known as sequestration for seven months by using attrition to reduce the federal work force over the next decade.

In this way, the Pentagon would be spared deep reductions in the overall plan to slice the budget by $1.2 trillion from now through 2023.

The bill advanced by Republicans runs counter to President Obama's recommendation that sequestration be postponed through a series of spending cuts while boosting tax revenues.

According to GOP lawmakers, the White House relies too heavily on tax increases to lower the federal deficit.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said, "Our defense should not be used as a bargaining chip because of other policy aspirations that people want to accomplish."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham implied that the White House was aiding America's enemies, asserting, "I'm sure Iran is very supportive of sequestration.  I'm sure al Qaeda training camps all over the world would be pleased with the fact that sequestration would gut the CIA."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Panetta Orders First Real Sequestration Preparations; Warns of Perfect Storm

Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Panetta isn’t waiting for another round of sequestration anticipation -- he’s taken action and announced the first preparations for possible budget cuts in March.

In the previous countdown to sequestration and the fiscal cliff Panetta just wished it would go away.  But not this time.  Sequestration would mean $500 billion in Defense spending cuts triggered if there’s no increase to the debt ceiling.   
“We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst,” Mr. Panetta said at a news conference Thursday afternoon with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He later said, “We simply cannot sit back now.”
Panetta has directed the military services to immediately implement what he called “prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risk” from sequestration.  This includes a freeze on the hiring of civilians, a delay in awarding contracts and trimming facility maintenance.  He’s also directed the services to come up with detailed planning for how they’d implement sequestration because there really isn’t much time left in the fiscal year.   The planning would include unpaid furloughs for the civilian workforce.
“For now, I've made clear that these actions must be reversible to the extent feasible and must minimize harmful effects on readiness. But we really have no choice but to prepare for the worst,” Panetta said. He doesn’t know how much the moves will save.
Panetta’s opening statement also contained a warning about a “perfect storm of budget uncertainty” that could affect the Pentagon budget in March: possible sequestration cuts on March 1, the March 27 end of the temporary funding measure known as the Continuing Resolution, and an $11 billion cut in Army and Marine spending to keep funding the war in Afghanistan if the cuts take place.
“And the fact is, looking at all three of those, we have no idea what the hell's going to happen. All told, this uncertainty, if left unresolved by the Congress, will seriously harm our military readiness,” he said.
Panetta warned that while sequestration is supposed to trim nine percent from the DOD budget, the combination of the three factors above will actually total 19 to 20 percent in Pentagon cuts.  He said the impact on the Army would actually feel like a 30-percent cut.
Those kinds of cuts would lead to serious training cuts for Army units, reductions in ship training, cuts in flying hours for pilots and ships being pulled out of maintenance.  
Gen. Dempsey also warned that March could “set the conditions for readiness to pass a tipping point.”   
He added, “Our readiness will begin to erode. Within months, we'll be less prepared. Within a year, we'll be unprepared.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan Blasts the President for Defense Cuts

Steve Pope/Getty Images(WEST CHESTER, Pa.) -- Standing next to two Sikorski helicopters, Paul Ryan had the perfect setting to talk about the looming issue of $500 billion in defense cuts, also known as sequestration, blaming the president for the cuts.

“President Obama’s reckless defense cuts that are hanging over our cloud, hanging over the horizon, could put almost 44,000 jobs at stake right here in Pennsylvania. We are not going to let that happen,” Ryan said to thousands of people at the American Helicopter Museum.

Ryan cited his Pennsylvania colleagues in Congress as well as “national defense” being “the first priority of the federal government” as reasons sequestration won’t happen.

“We already passed spending cuts and other wasteful parts of government to replace those irresponsible and devastating cuts of the president through his lack of leadership … ” Ryan said. "You see, here is what happens. When these budget negotiations went down the pike, the president insisted that these irresponsible defense cuts be a part of this package. Then, he insisted if you want to undo them, we need a trillion dollar tax increase on successful small businesses. So you either lose defense jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further in a competitive disadvantage to compete in the global economy and lose small business jobs."

“I’ve got a good idea,” he added. “Why don’t we take away President Obama’s job and create jobs for everybody no matter what industry they are in? That’s a good stimulus project.”

The vice presidential candidate simplified the reasons behind the cuts, which are part of a political battle that began brewing last summer. They are mandated by the Budget Control Act, which was signed into law last August by President Obama in exchange for a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit.

House Speaker John Boehner insisted that any increase in the debt limit be matched dollar-for-dollar in spending cuts and reforms, but as the federal government ran critically low on cash, Congress had only agreed to about $1.2 trillion in savings. Still, the debt limit was increased under an agreement that called on a “supercommittee” to negotiate an additional $1.2 trillion in savings, or face sequestration -- meaning the automatic cuts that include those defense cuts and items unpalatable to each party.

After the supercommittee failed to strike a deal, the country was left with sequestration. The Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, has warned what the cuts would mean for the military.

Romney has also hit the president over the cuts on the campaign trail.

Dressed in a blue polo shirt and khakis, Ryan also struck a populist tone at the rally, hitting both Republicans and Democrats while talking about the “you didn’t build that” line of attack that has been the Republicans’ focus since the president uttered the words last month in reference to government help for small businesses.

“It reveals this side of a government-centered society, of an economy driven by government; it reveals this idea that we need to tax more money from families and small business,” Ryan said. “Take that money to Washington and then spread it around to your cronies. … Look, Republicans have been guilty of this in the past, as well. Let’s not forget that both political parties touched this idea of getting Washington to pick winners and losers in the economy.”

Pennsylvania hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but the GOP is hoping to turn the state red in November. Ryan spent the day campaigning in West Chester and Carnegie, Pa.

Ryan will hold a fundraiser in the heavily Democratic city of Philadelphia Tuesday evening.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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