A new measure requires the Obama administration to provide to Congress detailed plans for the forced budget cuts that sequestration will bring.
President Barack Obama on Aug. 7 signed the Sequestration Transparency Act, a law that will require his office to provide details within 30 days on how sequestration, if enacted in January, will be implemented.
More specifically, the new law requires the Office of Management and Budget to explain exactly what could be cut should Congress fail to prevent the sweeping budget cuts. Sequestration is set to be triggered due to a congressional "supercommittee" that could not reach agreement on what could have been more targeted budget cuts. It was written into last year’s Budget Control Act as the next step should the supercommittee fail. It would slash federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
“There is no amount of planning or reporting that will turn the sequester into anything other than the devastating cut in defense and domestic investments that it was meant to be. The sequester was passed by both Republicans and Democrats not as a policy we want to see enacted, but as a forcing mechanism to get Congress to act in a serious, balanced way on deficit reduction,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said in a July 26 press briefing.
Beyond detailing areas of spending reductions, the transparency legislation asks for a list of functions exempt from the cuts as well as “any other data and explanations that enhance public understanding of the sequester and actions to be taken under it,” according to language in the bill.
Additionally, the legislation directs heads of federal agencies to consult with congressional appropriations committees and provide OMB with information “at the program, project and activity level.”
“The American people deserve to know how their commander-in-chief intends to implement half a trillion dollars in cuts to our national security which his own Secretary of Defense compared to 'shooting ourselves in the head,'" House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who sponsored the bill, said in a released statement. “While House Republicans remain committed to achieving the full spending reduction required by the Budget Control Act, we believe that we cannot solve our national debt crisis by deliberately permitting a national defense crisis, which is why we have a plan to replace those arbitrary cuts with other spending cuts and reforms. With the sunlight provided by this new law, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to replace these damaging defense cuts and expect the president to work with us.”
Democrats have called on Republicans to increase taxes on the wealthy in order to help prevent the drastic cuts, which would have deep impact across government.
“Congress must act to avoid these devastating cuts & ask wealthiest to pay fair share,” White House deputy press secretary Amy Brundage tweeted in announcing the president’s signature.
Brundage’s comments echo those of OMB Director Jeffrey Zients, who testified in an Aug. 1 House Armed Services Committee hearing on sequestration that devolved into riotous partisan bickering.
“What is holding us up now is the Republican refusal to have the wealthiest 2 percent pay their fair share,” Zients said.