Asking for details on a scheduled budget sequester that would take effect in January of 2013, the Senate on Wednesday sent President Obama a bill that requires the federal government to detail where over $100 billion in automatic budget cuts would hit military and domestic spending accounts.
After being approved last week by the House on a vote of 414-2, the Senate quietly approved the plan without debate or vote, sending it on to the President’s desk.
If Mr. Obama signs the bill into law, that would start a 30 day deadline for the feds to report back to Congress on how the cuts would be distributed.
Here’s the applicable bill language on what should be in the sequester report:
(1) for discretionary appropriations–
(A) an estimate for each category of the sequestration percentages and amounts necessary to achieve the required reduction; and
(B)(i) for accounts that are funded pursuant to an enacted regular appropriation bill for fiscal year 2013, an identification of each account to be sequestered and estimates of the level of sequestrable budgetary resources and resulting reductions at the program, project, and activity level based upon the enacted level of appropriations; and
(ii) for accounts that have not been funded pursuant to an enacted regular appropriation bill for fiscal year 2013, an identification of each account to be sequestered and estimates pursuant to a continuing resolution at a rate of operations as provided in the applicable appropriation Act for fiscal year 2012 of the level of sequestrable budgetary resources and resulting reductions at the program, project, and activity level;
(2) for direct spending–
(A) an estimate for the defense and nondefense functions based on current law of the sequestration percentages and amount necessary to achieve the required reduction; and
(B) an identification of the reductions required for each nonexempt direct spending account at the program, project, and activity level;
(3) an identification of all exempt discretionary accounts and of all exempt direct spending accounts; and
(4) any other data and explanations that enhance public understanding of the sequester and actions to be taken under it.
“It’s important for the Office of Management and Budget to outline to the Congress and the American people how they intend to enforce the sequester, and where these reductions in spending are going to come from,” said House Speaker John Boehner said at his Thursday news conference.
Most people on Capitol Hill have probably already forgotten that the House passed a bill back in May to replace the cuts in the sequester for the military; that same measure also would achieve $243 billion in additional budget savings.
The vote on that bill was 218-199 in the House, as 16 Republicans broke ranks to vote against the GOP cuts, with all Democrats opposed.
It is a reminder that while lawmakers might have agreed on a bill asking the feds to detail where they would make the automatic cuts, there is certainly no agreement on how the Congress might change that outcome.
The next step is to see if the President signs this “Sequester Transparency Act” into law. If he does, then the clock starts counting down on details of how the Obama Administration would deal with $100 billion in cuts.
It’s one thing to talk about making cuts, it’s another thing to put them down on paper.