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Blog: What is the Sequester?


Location: Washington, DC

On March 1, 2013 the sequester is set to kick in. But what is the sequester and how will it affect the people in Florida?

"Sequester" just means a general cut in government spending.

This proposed sequester set to take place March 1st cuts $42.7 billion in both defense and non-defense budgets. The White House Office of Management and Budget is tasked with administering these across-the-board cuts so that each "program, project, or activity" is reduced by the same percentage in each of the four categories:
-Defense mandatory spending
-Defense discretionary spending
-Non-defense mandatory spending
-Non-defense discretionary spending

**Mandatory spending just means that the money for the program, project, or activity has already been authorized and does not require further allocations from Congress each year. Most entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Income Security are all examples of programs that operate on "autopilot" or under mandatory spending. NOTE: Social Security, Medicaid, and interest payments on debt are some mandatory spending programs that won't be cut at all during sequestration.

**Discretionary spending requires Congress to allocate the money each year to that program, project, or activity. Agency budgets are typically under discretionary spending and therefore require Congress to review and allocate funds each year. NOTE: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamp program), and all programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs won't be affected by sequestration (for a full list, please refer to the CRS report.)

What do I propose instead of the sequester?

Instead of these automatic, across-the-board cuts, Congress should look to reducing how much we spend in thoughtful, specific ways. Across-the-board cuts are a result of bad politics and are bad policy because they are not carefully targeted at wasteful programs (which the government is riddled with!) and leaves other important programs on the chopping block that would threaten our national security and children's education.

I believe that the best approach to deficit reduction is to first address bloated budgets in the government to curb waste and abuse.

I have introduced two bills that would cut spending and would reform agency budgets:
- H.R. 249, the Bowles-Simpson Plan of Lowering America's Debt (BOLD) Act, which enacts deficit reductions as proposed by the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Some of the common-sense cuts in my bill include reducing the federal printing cost, reducing federal travel budgets, and selling off excess federal property.
-I have also introduced H.R. 239, Zero-based Budgeting Ensure Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act, which would require each agency and department to justify every line item on their budget each year.

Background on the sequester:

-When the debt ceiling was reached in 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion, but required an equal amount of deficit reduction. The Budget Control Act included $917 billion in cuts and enacted the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction "super committee", which was tasked with coming up with the additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. The president suggested that one caveat be included - if the Super Committee failed to come up with the spending cuts, then a sequestration or automatic enforcement procedures were put in place. The super committee did fail and those cuts are currently set to start March 1, 2013.

Since the Budget Control Act did not outline specifically where the spending cuts would take place, Congress passed the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, which required the President to submit a report on the potential cuts triggered by sequestration. That report can be found here.

For the record, I did not vote in support of the Budget Control Act. I never supported the idea of a "super committee" deciding on large amounts of budget cuts. Instead, Congress should have passed a budget that would have decreased our spending, but that hasn't happened in nearly four years. While the House has passed a budget every year, the Senate has not acted and the president has missed his deadline for four years.

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