Sequester Transparency Bill Headed for Enactment

August 1, 2012


By Scott Cox, Senior Legislative Specialist, ASI Government

Federal agencies should know by early September how the White House plans to implement the across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in January under the Budget Control Act. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on July 26 that President Barack Obama will sign the Sequestration Transparency Act (H.R. 5872), legislation directing the President to report to Congress within 30 days of the bill’s enactment on the spending cuts necessary to achieve the required reductions at the program, project, and activity levels. The report also is to identify all exempt discretionary and direct spending accounts. With little fanfare, the Senate unanimously passed the bill last week, following overwhelming bipartisan approval in the House the preceding week. 

"Up to this point, [Office of Management and Budget] staff has been conducting the analysis needed to move, and should it get to the point where it appears that Congress will not do its job and the sequester may take effect, OMB, [the Department of Defense], and the entire administration will be prepared," Carney said.

The sequester can be averted if Congress and the Obama administration reach a deal on alternative spending cuts, revenue increases, or both. However, any serious agreement is not expected until after the November elections. Under the Budget Control Act, OMB will be forced to reduce federal spending by $110 billion for fiscal year 2013 beginning January 2, which would result in a 10 percent and 8 percent reduction to defense and domestic programs, respectively. Republican lawmakers are fighting to stave off cuts to the defense budget, but have rebuffed Democrats’ push to allow Bush-era tax cuts for more affluent households to expire in January, resulting in a months-long stalemate. President Obama has vowed to veto any legislation to repeal the automatic cuts, instead urging Congress to offer an alternative deficit reduction plan.

"As the President himself has said, there’s no reason why these cuts should happen, and Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong," Carney remarked during last week’s press briefing.

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