Time to Rely on Regular Budget Process

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Unable to reach agreement on a better alternative, elected officials allowed the sequester’s arbitrary spending cuts to begin taking effect late last week. But even if these cuts remain in effect, the federal budget will still be on an unsustainable long-term path.

In a blog post, Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby urged elected officials to use the regular budget process to move forward toward the more comprehensive fiscal reforms that are needed.

Sequestration was not good policy, Bixby wrote, but had become a matter of political accountability: “A threat, such as sequestration, can only be effective if everyone understands that the consequences are real. The cuts may be ill-timed and arbitrary but they are what the President, the House and the Senate agreed would happen if they and their super committee kicked the can down the road.”

Obama met with congressional leaders Friday but officials in both parties continued to reiterate their basic differences over the budget.  While most Democrats support replacing the cuts with a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, most Republicans remain opposed to any additional revenue increases.

Bixby says sequestration “is simply one small part of a larger, ongoing story. It can be and should be replaced, but not until Republicans and Democrats can agree on something better. The best opportunity to do that comes not with the threat of a government shutdown when funding runs out on March 27, or when the debt limit is again reached this summer, but through the regular budget process which will kick off later this month with the President’s budget proposal, and House and Senate action on budget resolutions.”

This week the House is expected to consider legislation to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year and prevent a government shutdown. Included in the legislation are regular Defense and Military Construction/ Veterans Affairs appropriations bills and a continuing resolution to fund most other federal agencies at current levels.

Funding provided in the bill would remain subject to sequestration, though it provides some flexibility for agencies to allocate cuts to defense and veterans programs. Including the effects of sequestration, CBO estimates that the bill will limit FY 2013 discretionary spending to  $984 billion. The current continuing resolution is scheduled to expire on March 27.

External links:
Office of Management and Budget Report on Sequestration
The Sequester: What You Need to Know (Bipartisan Policy Center)
What You Should Know About the Sequester (Peter G. Peterson Foundation)
Automatic Reductions in Government Spending — AKA Sequestration (CBO)
House Appropriations Committee Summary of Continuing Resolution
CBO Estimate of Continuing Resolution
CBO Analysis of FY 2013 Appropriations and Effect of Sequestration

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