Budgetology: Nothing But Cuts

| March 22 2013

Budgetology: Nothing But Cuts

With the sequester in effect it seems like Washington is finally coming around to the idea of finding smarter spending cuts to soften the blow. And all it took was a year and a half of political posturing, dire warnings from the White House and another “can’t miss” deadline to get them to act.  So after both parties initially opposed any flexibility in implementing the cuts, maybe they’ve realized trimming back three cents on the dollar isn’t impossible after all.   

CONGRESS FOCUSES ON “FLEXIBILITY” TO MITIGATE THE DAMAGE OF SEQUESTRATION

Lawmakers Include Smarter Replacement Cuts For The Sequester In Continuing Resolution:

Congress Adopts Flexibility On Sequester Cuts: “To blunt the impact of the sequester, the House introduced new priorities for military spending in its version of the bill. The Senate bill added several other areas to the bill, including agriculture, commerce, science, justice and homeland security. The result is to add money to certain key programs; all were offset with cuts elsewhere.” (Rosalind S. Helderman, “Senate Passes Government Funding Measure; House To Vote Thursday,” The Washington Post, 3/20/13)

House and Senate Focus On “Detailed Full-Year Appropriations” Instead Of Overturning Sequester. “As part of its political bargain with the House, the Senate made no attempt to overturn sequestration. Instead the focus has been to update the base from which the cuts are made by providing departments with more detailed full-year appropriations. The House did the same but for only Defense and Veterans Affairs. The Senate added Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and NASA. Taken all together, more than two-thirds of the discretionary funding for 2013 will now be subject to relatively detailed appropriations.” (David Rogers, “Senate Continuing Resolution Advances,” POLITICO, 3/18/13)

Sen. Blunt: Let’s Use Scalpel Instead Of Ax. “Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is suggesting the Obama administration use a scalpel instead of ax to implement spending cuts under the budget sequester. … ‘The compromise is to give the president authority that he should be willing to use as the leader of the country to target the cuts rather than to take the cuts on every line item,’” Blunt said. (Niels Lesniewski, “Blunt Urges Discretion in Applying Sequester Cuts,” Roll Call, 2/21/13)

BUT THE WHITE HOUSE HAS LONG MAINTAINED “NO AMOUNT OF FLEXIBILTY CAN MITIGATE THE DAMAGE” OF SEQUESTER

President Obama: “No Smart Way” To Cut $85 Billion: “The problem is, when you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months … there’s no smart way to do that.  There’s no smart way to do that.” (“Obama On Sequester Cuts: ‘There’s No Smart Way To Do That,'” Real Clear Politics, 2/26/13)

Carney: Bill With “Enough Flexibility To Do Away With All The Bad Things Doesn’t Exist.” “A bill that ‘introduced enough flexibility to do away with all the bad things doesn’t exist,’ [White House Press Secretary Jay Carney] said.” (Anith Kumar and William Douglas, “Republicans Propose Flexible Cuts as Sequestration Option,” The Sacramento Bee, 3/20/13)

Carney: No Amount Of Discretion Would Help. “Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, dismissed the Republican plan, saying that no amount of flexibility could mitigate the damage of the automatic cuts. He said such changes could help only ‘on the margins.’”(Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, G.O.P Drafts Plan to Give Obama Discretion on Cuts,” The New York Times, 2/26/13)

PRESIDENT OBAMA EVEN THREATENED TO VETO A BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR SMARTER CUTS

White House: “No Smart Way” To Cut Spending, Promised To Veto Flexibility:

Last Month, The White House Backed Away From Flexibility On Political Grounds. “White House budget officials are leery. If Congress grants the White House the authority to protect air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and national parks, the administration’s carefully devised high-pressure campaign that has been mounting for weeks could deflate. Moreover, the White House would take on the responsibility of deciding which programs to protect and which to expose — and the political consequences that go with that.” (Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, “G.O.P Drafts Plan to Give Obama Discretion on Cuts,” The New York Times, 2/26/13)

And Eventually Threatened To Veto A Bill Intended To Give Them Discretion: “The White House threatened to veto the Senate GOP’s bill aimed at giving the president flexibility to target spending cuts — ripping the idea for protecting corporate tax exemptions.” (Steven Dennis, “White House Threatens To Veto GOP Sequester Bill,” Roll Call, 2/28/13)

Now The White House Is Complaining It Doesn’t Have The Flexibility It Never Wanted: “’There is very little flexibility in terms of how to make those cuts happen,’ White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week. The White House didn’t ask Congress to give the administration the flexibility to pick what programs would be slashed.” (Anith Kumar and William Douglas, “Republicans Propose Flexible Cuts as Sequestration Option,” The Sacramento Bee, 3/20/13)

BUT MANY REPUBLICANS ALSO REJECTED THE IDEA OF GIVING THE WHITE HOUSE FLEXIBILITY IN IMPLEMENTING CUTS

Republicans Also Oppose Plan For More Flexible Cuts. “The proposal is also opposed by some Republicans who fear that it would give away too much of Congress’s authority to say where and how money gets spent. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, condemned it as an unacceptable ceding of Congressional authority.” (Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear, G.O.P Drafts Plan to Give Obama Discretion on Cuts,” The New York Times, 2/26/13)

G.O.P Fears Flexibility Is A Power Grab. “Part of the reason Senate GOP leaders have not decided yet how broad that flexibility should be — whether it should apply just to the defense cuts, as many Republicans want, or to domestic cuts as well — is due to differences in opinion among Republicans over how much power to give the president.”(Dana Bash and Ted Barrett, “Top Senate Republican Doubts Damage From Defense Cuts,” CNN 2/26/13)

Sen. Graham Rejects Giving Obama Flexibility. “[Sen. Lindsey] Graham was one of nine Republicans who broke with their party and voted against a sequester alternative bill that would have allowed the president more flexibility in making the cuts.” (Tamara Keith, “GOP On The Sequester: Many Messages But Mostly The Same Point,” NPR, 3/1/13)

SO IS WASHINGTON FINALLY COMING AROUND TO THE IDEA OF CUTTING SPENDING IN A SMARTER WAY?

The Hill: “New Ad Promotes Flexibility In Sequestration Cuts” (Alexandra Jaffe, “New Ad Promotes Flexibility in Sequestration Cuts,” The Hill, 3/5/13)

Public Notice Launches Campaign Urging Washington To Offset Sequestration With More Responsible Cuts. “Public Notice today announced a national cable and online advertising campaign urging Washington to offset sequestration with more responsible spending cuts. … This campaign focuses on what is really being asked of Washington – a cut of three cents from every dollar they spend, which is the type of sacrifice Americans make everyday.” (“Public Notice Launches National Television And Online Ad: “Three Pennies”, Public Notice, 3/5/13)

Gretchen Hamel, Executive Director Of Public Notice: Sequester Only Amounts to Cutting Three Cents Of Every Dollar In Federal Budget. “Now that the political posturing is over, it’s time for Washington to come up with the best way to implement the sequester or offer smarter cuts to replace it. Finding just three cents on every dollar in the annual federal budget to replace sequestration isn’t ‘draconian’ or ‘drastic’—it’s the responsible thing to do. Considering we’re $16.6 trillion in debt and on our way to $20 trillion in debt in the next four years, Americans expect more from Washington than passing blame and demogoguing.” (“Public Notice Launches National Television And Online Ad: ‘Three Pennies’,” Bankrupting America3/5/13)

BankruptingAmerica.org is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.

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