Federal Relations

Effort Begins to Repeal Sequester

Senate Republicans are posed today to initiate an effort to block automatic budget cuts scheduled to take place next January.  They will propose replacing the first year of the spending “sequester” with a plan to shrink federal employment and extend a pay freeze on government workers.  The effort is an attempt to stave off what many view as potentially devastating cuts to the Pentagon.

Late last year, House Armed Services Chairman McKeon (R-CA) offered a similar proposal (HR 3662) that quickly received a veto threat from the White House.  McKeon’s legislation would save more than $120 billion over a decade, effectively offsetting the first year of the statutory sequester of both defense and non-defense spending. That would push off until FY14 the spending cuts triggered the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25) that was approved by Congress last August.

The Senate’s proposed bill, the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2012, will add credibility to the sequester repeal effort due to the high-profile sponsors of the bill, including Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

Like McKeon’s measure, the Senate legislation would replace $109 billion in estimated, across-the-board spending cuts that are set to kick in January 2, 2013 with savings from a reduction in the federal workforce over a decade.  McKeon’s proposal would trim the workforce by 10 percent by replacing every three workers who leave an agency with just one new hire.  The Senate bill would cut the workforce by 5 percent, replacing every three full-time workers who leave with two new hires.  The Senate bill goes farther than the House measure by also finding savings by extending the current pay freeze for federal civilian workers until June 30, 2014.  Contrast that will what is expected to be in the President’s FY13 budget request: a 0.5 percent pay bump for federal employees in his budget proposal due February 13th, bringing an end to the two-year freeze.

Senator Murray (D-WA) has already expressed her opposition to the GOP plan via Twitter, where she posts “GOP to lay out plan to avoid def. cuts tmw. Who thinks it will also avoid having wealthy pay fair share? Ask only middle class sacrifice?”