Brace for impact

Most observers think sequestration will go into effect, temporarily.

APA and other organizations that are urging Congress to avoid disruptive automatic budget cuts were invited to the White House today to hear a short speech on the consequences of sequestration . Standing in front of firefighters and other first responders whose jobs might be in jeopardy if $85 billion in pending cuts go into effect, President Obama made a plea for Congress to work with him to adopt legislation that will delay the cuts set to go into effect on March 1. He suggested that at a minimum, Congress should pass a smaller bill that would allow time for more comprehensive legislation, such as tax or entitlement reform, to be negotiated. 

Senate Democrats plan to bring a deficit reduction bill to the floor the week of February 25 that would include cuts to agricultural subsidies and would tax oil derived from tar sands, as oil from other sources is taxed. The $110 billion bill would also raise taxes on millionaires, and would meet the Budget Control Act’s deficit reduction targets through December. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the Senate Republicans oppose the inclusion of new revenue in any bill to suspend sequestration. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said if the Senate passes a bill, the House will work with Senate leadership, but cautioned that the House will not consider a bill that does not bring the U.S. budget to balance within ten years.

While it's true that Congress is often able to pull a rabbit out of a hat at the last minute, most observers doubt that any sequestration-lifting legislation can pass the Senate (where 60 votes will be needed to prevent a filibuster) before March 1. A more comprehensive budget agreement might be possible by the end of March, when House and Senate appropriators must extend the fiscal year 2013 Continuing Resolution that currently funds most federal programs.  

If sequestration does go into effect on March 1, it is not known how quickly cuts would then occur. Some programmatic cuts may be immediate, but cuts involving personnel would take longer. Federal agencies are required to give employees 30 days' notice before furloughs occur.

If you have not yet communicated with your U.S. Senators and Representative about this issue, allow us to suggest a quick and easy way: send an email through APA's action alert.