August 21, 2014

Both Parties Worry Over ‘Automatic’ Cuts

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

President Obama signed legislation last week requiring the administration to report within 30 days on how it plans to implement “automatic” spending cuts that are required next year because a congressional “super committee” failed to agree on a deficit-reduction plan.

These cuts – also known as a “sequester”  – will total approximately $109 billion and are scheduled to begin in January. They are unusual because the executive branch rather than Congress will direct them, and lawmakers in both parties have been eager to hear the administration’s specific implementation plans.

“Sequesters have been part of the budget process for decades,” says Joshua Gordon, policy director for The Concord Coalition, in a recent blog post. “Were this sequester to go into effect, however, it would be among the few that have ever actually taken place in this country’s history, and would certainly have the greatest budgetary effect.” Mark Luciano, a Concord intern, assisted with the article.

The sequester was initially intended as a ‘Sword of Damocles’ over the super committee, which was created by the August 2011 agreement to raise the federal debt limit. The sequester “was not actually designed to take effect; it was designed to be so unpalatable that the Democrats and Republicans on the committee would feel forced to agree on 10-year that would reduce projected deficits by $1.2 trillion,” Gordon explains.

“Few in either party think such indiscriminate cuts make sense from a policy standpoint,” he adds. “Democrats and the President are also concerned about the impact of immediate spending cuts on a fragile economy, while Republicans prefer to replace defense cuts with deeper cuts to domestic programs.”