It’s sequester-deadline day, and virtually nothing stands in the way of the automatic spending cuts that are set to take effect.
Despite the president’s meeting with leaders from both political parties today, Congress isn’t even in town to stop the deep reductions with an 11th-hour plan.
President Obama signs the sequester order: No word yet on exactly when he will do this. The president just has to make it happen before midnight, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Spending cuts: During the next seven months, the sequester requires $85 billion worth of spending cuts in agency budgets, with the cuts applying equally to virtually every program and account.
A host of exemptions would apply to so-called “mandatory” spending, all Veterans Affairs expenditures and some programs that help the poor. The list includes Social Security benefits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, Medicaid benefits, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance.
Possible furloughs: Forced unpaid leave won’t happen for at least 30 days in most cases, because agencies are required to provide notice to employees. Some agencies don’t expect to furlough at all, as they figure other cost-saving measures will help them meet their sequester targets.
We know of at least two agencies — the National Labor Relations Board and the Justice Department — that have already provided workers with the required 30-day notice for furloughs.
Labor leaders will negotiate with federal agencies over the terms of the furloughs, working with planners to provide workers as much flexibility as possible. Union representatives have told us they want their members to have some say in when they take days off — and possibly have the option of volunteering for furlough days on behalf of colleagues who are in a tougher spot.
March 27: That’s the date Congress’s last temporary spending plan expires. Lawmakers and the president will need to agree a new budget — even if it’s another short-term plan — to keep the government from shutting down.
Congress is scheduled to be on recess that week, so lawmakers would have to approve a deal before March 25 or cancel their break in order to avert a shutdown.
House Republicans are expected to propose a resolution next week that would lock in the sequester cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year while providing the White House with more flexibility with how it administers cuts affecting the Pentagon.
Neither the president nor Senate Democrats have threatened to block that legislation, but they reportedly would want to adjust the proposal to provide greater flexibility for domestic spending.
An article in Friday’s Washington Post explained those developments in greater detail.
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