Sequestration


Rep. Moran and Virginia lawmakers explain the impact of sequestration on U.S. air travel

Congress and the President have struggled over the past two years to agree on the appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. While the need to improve our fiscal situation is clear, the House Republican majority’s insistence on immediate cuts and reductions focused almost exclusively on the discretionary budget have hurt our economic recovery and now risk compromising our national security and the basic operations of the federal government.

I am open to discussing entitlement reforms to find long term savings that won’t injure current beneficiaries, but I take sharp issue with the political tactics of brinkmanship that have been employed by the House majority over the past two years to advance its “spending cuts only” agenda. In April 2011, in order to avoid an imminent and unnecessary government shutdown, the President and Speaker Boehner agreed to an approximately $38 billion cut in fiscal year 2011 discretionary spending. Four months later, the nation’s credit was first questioned, and then downgraded, after the Congress delayed raising the debt ceiling. Eventually a debt limit extension was approved as part of a broad deal, known as the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), that cut discretionary spending by $1 trillion over the succeeding ten years and set up a process to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion. The BCA established a “Congressional Super Committee” with powers similar to a Base Closure commission, whereby its agreed upon recommendations would receive an up or down vote in Congress.  
 
I voted against the BCA not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but also because I had serious doubts the Super Committee could succeed. Unfortunately, the Super Committee failed to reach an agreement. As a result, the BCA included a fallback enforcement mechanism, known as a sequester, that triggers self-executing, across-the-board cuts to all discretionary spending programs, projects and activities. After being delayed three months by the New Years Day fiscal cliff deal, Congress now has until March 1st to find a solution. Sequestration was never meant to substitute for sound or thoughtful budgeting, but unfortunately it is the law.

On March 1, 2013, federal agencies are required to cut $80 billion from their budgets, but would have less than half the fiscal year to do so. Because the personnel accounts are often the largest single expenditure in many federal agencies, nearly every civil servant may be required to take up to 22 unpaid, furlough days. Almost every American will be affected one way or another.  National Parks may close, the lack of air traffic controllers could force flight delays, if not outright cancellations, meat and dairy inspectors could be unable to do their jobs leading to possible shortages; the list goes on and on.
 
For the federal workforce, furloughs would be completely unacceptable. Federal employees did not create our deficits nor incur our federal debt; they should not be punished for Congress’ inability to avoid sequestration. That is especially true given the fact that since 2011, federal employees have sacrificed $103 billion in pay and compensation, nearly $50,000 per employee, in the name of deficit reduction. Asking federal employees to sacrifice approximately eight percent of their take home pay by being furloughed 22 days is beyond the pale.  
 
Sequestration can and should be avoided. This could be accomplished by a balanced approach that identifies spending reductions, reforms entitlement programs, increases government revenues and recognizes that discretionary spending has already been significantly decreased. There is no doubt that Congress can resolve the long-term deficit and debt challenges without jeopardizing our economic recovery, compromising our national security or disrupting the operations of the federal government.  
 
As March 1, 2013 approaches, I will continue working to resolve sequestration and pass a federal budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. We simply cannot continue to delay facing these challenges. Our uniformed service members, federal employees, and constituents alike deserve better.

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