House Members and Senators are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Obama Administration’s reluctance to provide information on how it would implement the automatic budget cuts set to go into effect next year.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires that, barring legislation to change it, about $110 billion will be automatically cut from federal budgets on January 2, 2013. Sequestration, as it is called, would cut $55 billion from the defense budget and an equal amount from total nondefense budgets. This automatic cut is part of a requirement to cuts federal budget spending by $1.2 trillion through FY2021.
As the sequestration deadline draws nearer, Congress has stepped up its demand that the administration explain how it would identify and administer these cuts. Officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have repeatedly said there are no efforts are underway to plan for sequestration. This response has caused Members and Senators to push for legislation to force the Administration to respond to their demands.
In the House, the House Budget Committee unanimously approved legislation (the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012) to require the president to report to the Congress, within 30 days of enactment, on how the administration would identify the specific appropriations accounts that will be affected by sequestration and the amounts (by program, project, and activity level) to be subjected to sequestration. The bill would also require similar information for those accounts not funded by appropriations. In preparing input to this report, agencies would consult with the leaders of each House and Senate appropriations committee.
In the Senate, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) sponsored an amendment to the Senate-passed farm bill requiring the administration to report on the effects sequestration will have on defense and nondefense programs. The amendment also requires a separate report on the impact of sequestration on the defense budget.
In addition to pressing the administration on how it would implement sequestration, supporters hope that their efforts will draw attention to the devastating effects of sequestration, especially on defense. For example, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and other Senators have said they will push to include an amendment requiring DOD to report on the impact of sequestration on every bill that passes the Senate. The hope is to galvanize support for legislation to mitigate the effects of sequestration.
Defense industry executives are also urging lawmakers to act to avoid the automatic cuts. They warn that defense industries could lose one million jobs if defense were cut by an additional $500 billion. They also warn that the lack of certainty about how DOD would plan for sequestration could force them to begin notifying their workers of potential layoffs or furloughs.