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This Is Why Fixing The Cliff In The Lame Duck Is A Bad Idea

26 Jul 2012
Posted by Stan Collender

The Senate yesterday passed "The Sequestration Transparency Act" that requires the president to explain to Congress what he plans to cut to implement the sequester -- the across the board spending reductions that were triggered when the anything-but-super committee failed last November to come up with a deficit reduction plan.

The act requires the president to submit the spending cut details to Congress within 30 days of the law being enacted. Assuming the president gets the actual legislation in about a week and signs it by around August 15, that would mean that the spending cut plan would be released by the middle of September. That would provide enough time for the proposed reductions (and the programs that would not be cut) to be an election issue; it would not provide enough time for legislation to be enacted before the election to prevent the proposed cuts from occurring.

The sequester will start to be implemented on January 2, 2012, unless Congress and the White House enact legislation to stop or alter it.

Much of the rhetoric surrounding the passage of the bill in the Senate yesterday and in the House last week had to do with a failure of the White House to live up to its responsibilities under the Budget Control Act that established the hardly super committee and the sequester.

But the BCA doesn't require the president explain in advance how he's planning to implement the sequester. In fact, other than the date when the spending is supposed to start to be reduced, the law provides no sequester-related deadlines and absolutely does not require the White House to pre-specify what will be cut.

The White House wasn't required to specify its preferred cuts; it was just doing what Congress allowed it to do when it drafted, debated and adopted the BCA.

In other words, and in spite of the rhetoric, this was a congressional rather than a White House failure.

And it's a huge warning sign about what could happen during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress when the same basic political environment -- the need to legislate quickly under extraordinary pressure -- not only will exist again but will be much worse. I actually shudder to think about what mistakes of omission and commission could be in all the fiscal cliff-related legislation on taxes, the debt ceiling, and government funding that will have to be decided by December 31 but won't start to be considered until after Election Day.

 

The absence of requirement to

The absence of requirement to inform Congress of implementation plans for sequestration is evidence that lawmakers, benightedly, thought the threat of sequestration would be enough to induce "Congress" to pass deficit cut legislation in time to avoid sequestration. I have "Congress" in quotes because all parties to the debate within Congress apparently thought the other side would cave in the face of the sequestration threat, and so no side to the debate felt the need to give much ground. It's clear from the details of various failed proposals that Democrats gave the most ground - there was an unhealthy balance of small tax hikes and big spending cuts in all major proposals. The all-or-nothing T-bagger crowd couldn't stomach a partial win, and so blew up the whole deal. They didn't think they'd have to give any ground and Democrats still thought that, when the time came, T-baggers would compromise.

This week's legislation is just silly-ass politicking. The damage has already been put in train and nobody seems to be willing to compromise enough to stop it.


I have a feeling if this

I have a feeling if this legislation is sent to the President in about a week, it will sit on his desk for months, being signed late enough that the election will be over before he has to specify the cuts.


Money Matt

Please explain what part of this statement you do not understand: Thanks

But the BCA doesn't require the president explain in advance how he's planning to implement the sequester. In fact, other than the date when the spending is supposed to start to be reduced, the law provides no sequester-related deadlines and absolutely does not require the White House to pre-specify what will be cut."




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