The Sequester: It’s Here to Stay
One month in, the sequester – or at the very least sequester-level spending – appears here to stay.
Not only are there limited opportunities to overturn the sequester, there appears to no momentum to reverse course. Two examples: 1) marking the first month of the sequester, President Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll; and, 2) the Left is criticizing Obama for signing a government funding bill that locked in sequester-level spending because it contained a provision dealing with genetically modified food.
Nonetheless, the Urban Institute’s Howard Gleckman argues the sequester won’t last:
The point is, the sequester is not written on stone tablets. Like every other budget gimmick Congress invents, this one can be rewritten, waived, and otherwise adjusted. And like every one before it, it probably will be.
Gleckman is right to argue that Congress is likely to adjust spending allocations as they proceed with individual FY14 appropriation bills this spring and summer. The much discussed “across the board cuts” are a one time thing, intended to reduce previously appropriated FY13 spending. There is no “sequester” in FY14 and beyond, just statutory spending caps.
From a technical standpoint, Gleckman is correct that Congress can easily set new statutory spending caps, but he misses the politics:
Because the sequester did lower the official budget baseline, restoring cuts will look like a spending increase and may prove awkward for some Republicans. But that is easily fixed—Congress will simply add back spending for 2013 while promising to cut more in future years.
Americans, especially Republican primary voters, do not trust promises of future action. If lawmakers cannot honor their current commitment, why would voters expect them to honor a commitment ten years down the line?
If lawmakers embrace a “spending increase,” they do so at their own peril.