A bipartisan group of Senators (three Democrats and three Republicans) are urging Senate leaders to act quickly to avoid sequestration and the “severe economic damage” it would cause.  They are committed, they say, to developing a bipartisan deficit reduction plan to avoid sequestration. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the senators warn it is “imperative to enact a bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid the severe economic damage that would result from the implementation of sequestration.”  They cite an Aerospace Industries Association report that predicts the loss of one million defense and one million nondefense jobs in 2013 alone. 

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were joined by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in signing the letter.  All but Sen. Whitehouse are members of the SASC.

The Senators warn that sequestration (set to go into effect on January 3, 2013 unless Congress acts) combined with an expiration of the Bush tax cuts could result in a recession and over 9 percent unemployment, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

They cite Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement that sequestration “would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.” The almost $500 billion cut to defense over nine years would, according to DoD, result in the “smallest ground force since 1940, smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest air force in its history.”

But, they argue, the negative impact of sequestration would not only be experienced by defense.  The letter points to an OMB report maintaining that cuts to nondefense budgets would “undermine investments to vital economic growth, threaten the safety and security of the American people, and cause severe harm to programs that benefit the middle-class, seniors, and children.”

The Senators’ letter does not contain specific recommendations on what a deficit reduction plan to avoid sequestration would contain.  But, it does underscore how frustrated they and other Senators and Members of Congress are over the lack of progress on finding an alternative to sequestration.  They are convinced, they wrote, that Congress “cannot wait until January to begin to develop a short-term or long-term sequestration alternative.” 

Congress will return in mid-November for a lame duck session to deal not only with the impending sequestration, but also the Bush tax cuts set to expire on December 31, the potential 30 percent increase in Medicare doctor fees, and the farm bill.