Americans are just days away from the “sequester”—automatic spending cuts schedule to automatically to take effect on March 1. The tone of the debate between White House and Republican congressional members has transitioned from solving the issue to pointing the finger at the other, should the spending cuts occur.
If politicians do not reach an accord, broad range spending cuts will apply equally to defense and non-defense programs. Over the next 10 years, a total of $1.2 trillion in cuts will have a bearing on a wide range of programs.
What is the sequester, or budget sequestration?
The sequester or budget sequestration serves as a enforcement method designed to pressure the White House and Congress into reaching agreement on reducing the nation’s budget deficit. It came about in August of 2011 as a result of the ominous possibility of downgrades in the U.S. credit rating and government shutdowns as the debt-limit deadline approached.
Republicans rebuff efforts to raise the debt limit without receiving a reduction in spending to shrink the deficit. Negotiations between Republicans and the administration eventually led to the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Act includes discretionary spending limits and a directive for future deficit-reduction initiatives.
Supercomittee unable to agree on plan
The Budget Control Act also authorized the creation of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a “supercommittee” made up of representatives and senators. This group had until January 15, 2012 to approve an extensive package of spending cuts.
The supercommittee failed to meet the cut-off date, which activated the sequestration- spending cuts were to go into effect on January 2, 2013. However, another arrangement, reached on January 2 of this year, gave the White House and Congress until March 1 to settle budgetary issues.
Last week, the President began efforts to lay the necessary groundwork to pressure Congress into postponing the cuts until the end of the year. In one news conference, the President accompanied by emergency responders, including paramedics and firefighters, stated that congressional Republicans will have to shoulder the blame for the spending reductions that will cost thousands of emergency personnel jobs.
“Republicans in Congress face a simple choice,” the President said. “Are you willing to see a bunch of first-responders lose their job because you want to protect some special-interest tax loophole?”
President Obama intends to accomplish this by reducing spending on farm subsidies and eliminating the tax breaks and loopholes for wealthy earners and certain industries like gas and oil companies.
Despite the fact that many Republicans voted to approve the Act, many of them want President Obama to receive any backlash as the “architect” behind the sequester deal. In their opinion, spending cuts that affect the nation’s defense capabilities and coming amidst a struggling economy should fall squarely on the shoulders of the President.
Scrabbling to save programs
Many lawmakers believe in the inevitability of the sequester and have made their cases in an attempt to minimize the effects of automatic budget cuts in their jurisdictions. Both Democrats and Republicans, in the house and senate, have held public and private hearings in an attempt to save valued programs and employment for their constituents.
Policymakers are also paying close attention to the outcome of the latest political “hot potato.” The sequestration resolution could have a serious impact and shape the ongoing argument over the size and reach of the federal government.
Some persons believe that if Americans do not view the cuts as an issue, it lends more credence to a staunch linchpin in the fiscal conservatives’ economic platform. They have argued for years that “big government” siphons away valuable resources and stifles the expansion of the private sector economy.