It is clear that the U.S. will suffer under across-the-board budget cuts that are commonly referred to as "the sequester". The cuts will slash the entire remaining 2013 federal budget by 85 billion and agencies cannot choose which programs can take the bulk of the cuts. All programs, whether they are ineffective or essential, must take an equal spending cut. According to a Mar. 1 article in the Federal Times, the Senate killed two bills that would have provided some relief. Democrats presented one bill and Republicans presented the other. The House has adjourned and is leaving for the week. It might have taken less time to get the Space X Dragon capsule aloft than it took for congress to leave Washington.
According to a Feb. 28 article in the Washington Examiner, the Republican bill would have kept the cuts for this year, but would have allowed President Obama to decide where the cuts apply. That bill was defeated by a 62-38 margin. The Democratic bill had a combination of targeted spending cuts and new revenue from higher taxes on hedge fund managers, oil companies and corporate jet owners. That bill was defeated by a 51-49 vote. If three "red state" Democrats had not joined the Republicans in defeating the bill, it would have passed.
The only option now is to pass a bill that will cancel some of the cuts, raise revenue and give more flexibility in applying the cuts. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. expects a Friday meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders.
The cuts will have real effects on March 27 when an existing stopgap spending resolution expires. This will drag the dramatic showdown out for another month at most. If the two sides do not agree to a solution, the cuts will go into effect in April.
Republicans say the nation must fix the 1.2 trillion deficit by cutting welfare and other programs while keeping existing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Democrats place more attention on cutting defense spending, investing in projects that create jobs and raising revenue by ending tax breaks. The two sides are far from reaching an agreement.
Most Americans focus on airports or the unemployed, poor and needy when they think about the sequestration and its immediate effects. Many do not realize that the sequester cuts apply to everything from aviation to zoology. In between are the courts, law enforcement, road building, regulation, science and national parks. One way or another, all Americans will share the pain that the sequester will bring.