Now that the Senate has voted to suspend the debt ceiling, the focus turns to the next fiscal battle: Sequestration, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that will affect most areas of government spending beginning on March.The cuts are expected to amount to $1.2 trillion over 10 years — including $85.3 billion in fiscal year 2013 alone.
But neither Republicans or Democrats seems concerned about the impending austerity cuts — not yet, at least. That has the potential to change in the coming weeks, however, especially in light of Wednesday’s unexpected GDP report that showed the economy shrinking for the first time in three years, largely due to a 22 per cent drop in military spending.
According to both Democratic and Republican aides in the House and Senate, neither side really wants sequestration to happen. But Republicans seem content to go along with the cuts, since they feel it is at least one way they can extract spending cuts from President Barack Obama and Democrats.
Democrats, meanwhile, have said that they won’t give in to a revised sequester deal without new revenues from closing tax loopholes.
Most surprising is Republican restraint over the massive defence cuts scheduled to start taking effect on March 1. Sequestration would force the Pentagon to make across-the-board cuts of 16.3 per cent in this year alone. It’s worth nothing that the surprise drop in GDP was due in large part to a 22 per cent reduction in military spending.
But some Democratic Senate aides think Republicans are bluffing:
“It is not clear to me that they have a strategy,” one Senate Democratic aide told Business Insider. “Senate Republicans are definitely not OK with the sequester kicking in, and I can’t imagine they appreciate the sanguine tone from their House counterparts. But at the same time, House Republicans seem to be embracing it.”
A House Republican aide said that the party views the cuts as “extremely damaging,” but added that GOP members are frustrated with Democrats.
“We’re at a point where you have to say, ‘It can’t just be us,'” the aide said.
Some Senate Republicans have tried to sound the alarm in recent days. Sen. John McCain, a defence hawk, told The Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui that using national security as leverage “would be a mistake.”
The White House has frequently said that it doesn’t want the cuts. At a presidential debate in October, President Barack Obama firmly declared that sequestration “would not happen.”
But as of now, it looks increasingly likely that the cuts are going to happen, as both sides refuse to budge.
“No one will tell you they want the cuts. But no one will tell you that we’ll definitely make them less damaging,” the House Republican aide said.
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