With a short-term suspension of the debt ceiling in the rearview mirror, eyes in Washington have turned to the next impending fiscal hurdle—a $1.2 trillion mix of cuts to mandatory and discretionary spending set to be implemented in less than one month, known as sequestration.
The cuts were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, a previous debt ceiling passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, which tasked lawmakers to find more than $1.2 trillion in cuts or face the automatic reductions, with nearly half being designated for the Department of Defense over the next decade. A bipartisan supercommittee tasked with finding the cuts failed last November, and although elements comprising the recent fiscal cliff were recently averted, lawmakers opted to delay sequestration until March 1.
Now, with a deadline bearing down, House members from the Chattanooga area have offered initial thoughts on the matter.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann told Nooga.com in a recent interview he hoped Congress would be able to arrive at a compromise that included "reasonable concessions" on spending programs but did not offer specific suggestions.
"The sequester will become law unless something is done," Fleischmann said in a phone interview. "Hopefully, that will give us an opportunity to get some reasonable concessions from the White House and the Senate, which has been unwilling to negotiate."
Through a spokesman, Rep. Scott DesJarlais suggested he was willing to leave the expiration of the sequestration deadline on the table but was also open to alternatives that met his standard for equivalent deficit reductions.
"The congressman does not support simply doing away with the sequester because it would show the private sector that the federal government is still not serious about controlling deficit spending," Robert Jameson, spokesman for DesJarlais, said in an emailed statement. "That being said, Rep. DesJarlais believes the House and Senate should and can pass legislation that would allow these spending reductions to come from all areas of government and not just the military and our seniors."
Both Fleischmann and DesJarlais voted in opposition to the Budget Control Amendment when it was passed in August of 2011.
According to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, as many as 1 million jobs could be lost this year and next because of ripple effects from the sequester. Government agencies and suppliers have begun preparing for how to best deal with less resources, with the Pentagon having already announced layoffs of up to 46,000 of its temporary employees.
In addition, economic forecasters have estimated that if the sequester takes effect, as many as 0.7 points could be knocked off of annual U.S. gross domestic product, derailing recent gains in economic growth.