Report released on potential sequester's effects on federal programs

It’s just as bad as you assumed.

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, released a report on July 25 that provides the most detailed information to date about how federal programs would be affected if large automatic cuts go into effect as now authorized. “Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services” — prepared by the Senate Labor-HHS subcommittee based on data provided by the departments under its jurisdiction — provides data by state on the impact of sequestration.

In January, 2013, unless Congress acts to supersede the current law, the first installment of a nine-year cycle of cuts will go into effect: $55 billion in cuts will come out of defense accounts and $54 billion from Non-defense discretionary accounts (that is, everything subject to appropriations that doesn’t count as defense).

In his introduction to the report, Harkin explained, “States and local communities would lose $2.7 billion in federal funding for just three critical education programs alone — Title I, special education State Grants, and Head Start — that serve a combined 30.7 million children.”

Regarding the impact of cuts on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the report said, “Because most NIH research grants are awarded competitively, the State-by-State impact of sequestration cannot be predicted precisely. But all 50 States would be expected to suffer from an across-the-board cut. The total cut to NIH would be $2.4 billion, allocated across the NIH Institutes and Centers. The National Cancer Institute alone would be cut by $396 million. But dollars tell only part of the story. [The Office of Management and Budget] has estimated that if sequestration went into effect, NIH would issue about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers in fiscal year 2013 than it will award this year.”

At a “Rally to Restore Balance” outside the Capitol yesterday, at which the report’s conclusions were announced, Senator Harkin urged members of the NDD Coalition (see entry below) to continue the call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, one that includes revenue provisions as well as entitlement program reforms. “We can’t cut our way to a balanced budget,” he said.