Most Americans are hearing for the first time about the sequester: federal spending cuts due to take place a week from now.
While President Barack Obama stood Tuesday with first responders who may lose their jobs because of the policy, most Americans don’t realize that the policy is the result of the president’s own faulty leadership, House Speaker John Boehner writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Unless Congress acts, $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will occur this year beginning March 1. Another $1.1 trillion will kick in over the next decades. We should be cutting more spending, but not via the sequester, which Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, calls “an ugly and dangerous way to do it.”
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The sequester focuses on a narrow part of the budget that funds operations for federal agencies and departments, including the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Most entitlement spending – the part of the budget driving the vast portion of the “looming” debt crisis – is exempt. The sequester would slash the military budget by nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade. Border security, law enforcement and aviation safety would be among other programs left underfunded.
In the summer of 2011, Boehner recalls that he and Obama nearly reached an historic agreement. But, Boehner writes, the deal fell apart at the last minute when Obama raised the ante and demanded an extra $400 billion in new tax revenue – 50 percent more than the two had agreed upon “just days before.”
With a breach of the debt limit days away, Boehner acted fast, getting together with Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to forge a bipartisan congressional plan that would be called the Budget Control Act.
The plan aimed at cutting $917 billion from discretionary spending and setting up a House-Senate “super committee” to find another $1.2 trillion in savings. To ensure the committee met its target, the debt limit would not be increased again in a few months.
Obama wanted to avoid another battle over the debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. So, Boehner writes, the president “scuttled” the bipartisan agreement and proposed the sequester instead.
As the debt limit was due to hit within hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress were forced to accept the president's proposal and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed, Boehner writes.
But the super committee failed to reach an agreement, and the president’s sequester now looms.
Both parties have a responsibility to reach a bipartisan solution to the sequester. Congress should replace the sequester with other spending cuts that put American on the road to a balanced budget within a decade without risking national security, Boehner writes.
Simply turning off the sequester and eliminating its deficit reduction measures isn’t an option.
Since the president first proposed and demanded the sequester, Boehner writes, it would make sense for the president to take the lead in replacing it. However, Obama has not put forth any detailed plan that can pass Congress, and the Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t even voted on a plan.
Boehner notes that the president has already gotten the higher taxes he demanded — $600 billion from higher earnings — at the end of 2012, as well as higher taxes via ObamaCare.
Nobody should be talking about raising taxes when the government is giving people free cellphone and spending millions of dollars on other senseless programs.
Washington must get serious about cutting spending, says Boehner. If it can’t reform the retirement security programs and safety net, they will not be there when people need them. Republicans have shown they are willing to do what is necessary to save the programs. The president has not shown the same courage.
Republicans agree with the president that the sequester is bad policy, Boehner writes. Now it is time for the president to step up and show what he is willing to cut in order to replace the sequester.
Meanwhile, the New York Times cites officials as saying that many of the spending cuts that will take place under the sequester are unlikely to be felt immediately. Instead, they will gradually ripple across the federal government as agencies learn to phase in the cuts.
"The scheduling will depend on what the workload is, what the cases are, what can wait," said Nanda Chitre, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice. "There's going to be impact all across law enforcement. But we've tried to give as much flexibility as possible."
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