Let's set the record straight on the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the origin of the sequestration requirement in it. Recent images of the President running all over the country, screeching at the top of his lungs about all of the government programs that were going to be cut, the economic hardships that would come, and the services that would have to be cut if the sequester was ever to go into effect. His cronies harped about how the airport air traffic controllers would have to be laid off. Head Start was going to endure drastic cuts.
The sky was falling and if we allowed these wild-eyed Republicans to have their way, the country was going to be less safe militarily because civilian employees at military bases would have to furloughed. It was the end of the world! The GOP response was to tell Senator Harry Reid to "get off his ass"!
After doing the math, we discovered that the total to be cut by the automatic sequester is $85 billion...a mere 2% of the total *budget (pseudo-budget). As we know, President Barack Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the Oval Office, Aug. 2, 2011. The Senate did not pass both legislative alternatives that would have headed off the across-the-board spending cuts. The Friday, March 1st deadline came and went and the sequester seemed unavoidable.
Democrats would have replaced the cuts, through 2013 with a combination of a minimum 30% tax on millionaires and cuts to defense and farm programs. It failed 51-49.
The Republican-controlled House passed an alternative that transferred sweeping authority to President Obama to force him to determine how to implement $85 billion in cuts. It seemed preferable to the across-the-board spending cuts. In hind sight, we see that this only allows the White House to politicize the cuts. Military personnel accounts and the social safety net including Social Security and Medicare were exempted. The GOP alternative measure also failed in the Senate, 38-62. Both proposals needed a 60-vote super majority to pass.
The cutting mechanism is seen by some as an unpopular budget tool, but to others it was the only way to force a cash-addicted Congress to cut spending. Now that it has happened, we can look back and say, "There, that didn't hurt too bad!"
The 2011 budget law requires Congress to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. Following a series of highly-publicized discussions between the President and congressional leaders, the bill was seen as the final chance in a series of proposals to resolve the 2011 United States debt-ceiling crisis. We were about to go over a "Fiscal Cliff". Remember?
The Obama-Boehner $4 trillion "Grand Bargain", the House Republican Cut, Cap and Balance Act, and the McConnell-Reid "Plan B" fallback all eventually failed to gather steam.
Now we come to the truth of another matter: Who suggested the sequester in the first place? It was White House National Economic Council Director, Gene Sperling who came to the rescue. On July 12, 2011, he proposed a mandatory trigger to go into effect if no other agreement was reached. President Obama agreed to the plan, and though House Speaker John Boehner expressed reservations, he also agreed. Bob Woodward was threatened by the White House (Gene Sperling, of all people) for speaking the truth, but was absolutely correct in his assertion that the White House was the source of the sequester idea. The White House denied it, claimed it was the doing of the GOP, and ran willy-nilly around the country trying to head it off. Thus, another of Obama's babies explodes in his face!
On July 26, 2011, White House Budget Director Jack Lew and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss the plan. Reid, like Boehner several days before, was initially opposed to the idea, but was eventually convinced to go along with it. On August 2nd, the President signed the reconciled bill, the Budget Control Act of 2011. It raised the debt limit and created a bipartisan committee on deficit reduction, commonly referred to as the Super Committee. This Super Committee was charged with the task of drafting additional legislation in time for Congress to vote on it by the end of 2011. They, of course, failed, not to propose legislation, but to get the proposed legislation passed. Their proposal was to cut $3.7 trillion over ten years through spending cuts and tax increases.
Now the only question that remains is this: Will the GOP press for a new national holiday to be dubbed, Sequestration Day? We could have parades, cook hot dogs, dance in the streets, shoot fireworks, and celebrate a great victory! When was the last time Congress actually reduced spending? Somebody needs to look that up... I already know the answer!
According to US Government Spending.com, the last time the budget was cut by $85 billion dollars was...drum roll, please:
* Pseudo-budget: A name that we call the federal budget when no constitutionally-passed budget has existed for nearly four years.