Federal Relations

Sequestration: We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

In his FY2015 budget request, President Obama is calling for replacing the sequester but Members of Congress see little reason to open that can of worms – at least for this year. Members from both parties are saying that the two-year budget deal Congress approved in December has reduced the urgency to address future mandatory and discretionary spending cuts due to take effect again in 2016. Many say they do not expect any major efforts to adjust or undo the sequester framework until closer to when the current agreement expires on September 30, 2015.

But the December budget deal set a precedent for chipping away at the deficit reduction law and sequestration, so many Members predict that Congress will eventually go back and undo the remaining years of the spending caps. Our very own Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), also the current Senate Budget Chairwoman who helped write the December budget deal, has said she is willing to forge another accord to eliminate the sequester entirely.

As a reminder, the December budget agreement brokered a short-term truce by boosting discretionary spending levels for FY2014 and FY2015. But the deal did not address the remaining years of tight spending caps, which stretch through 2021 for discretionary and 2024 for mandatory programs. The President’s FY2015 budget request proposes replacing those cuts starting in FY2016, using a combination of mandatory spending cuts, new tax revenue, and the enactment of immigration overhaul legislation but Congress is unlikely to act on those proposals this year.