Congress to White House: What’s the sequestration plan?

House Speaker John Boehner took the news as a political victory. House Speaker John Boehner took the news as a political victory. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The House passed a bill Wednesday requiring the White House to disclose details on how federal agencies will implement mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts if sequestration isn’t averted before January.

The bill, approved in a 414-2 vote, would require President Obama to submit a report to Congress within 30 days with details of agencies’ sequester plans. The Senate passed similar legislation in June as part of its farm bill.

House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted during debate that the bill was about transparency and not a discussion of the merits of Republican or Democrat ideas about how to avoid sequester.

Still, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio., took the bill’s passage as a political victory, saying the information the Obama administration produces “will provide a clear picture of what Democrats’ inaction will mean for our men and women in uniform and for all Americans who depend on the freedom and security their countless sacrifices provide.”

The House also is slated to vote this week on a $608 billion Defense appropriations bill that the White House has threatened to veto. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, Defense must find $487 billion in savings in its budget over the next 10 years. If sequestration kicks in, then it will face $600 billion in additional cuts in the next 10 years.

A recent study of the economic impact of sequestration provides possible answers to the questions lawmakers have posed to the White House. According to the study’s projections, sequestration would decrease workforce earnings by $109.4 billion and cost the economy 2.14 million jobs.

Additionally, Defense spending cuts would result in the loss of 325,693 direct jobs, including 48,147 civilian federal employees, and a loss of $59 billion for non-Defense agencies could cost 420,529 jobs, the report says.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., recommended a substitute to the Sequestration Transparency Act prior to its passage in the House Budget Committee. The alternate plan would have directly headed off sequestration for one year through cutting some farm support payments and eliminating tax breaks for major oil companies. He called out Republicans during the bill’s debate Wednesday for not considering revenue measures to fend off sequestration.

“The reason we are here is because Republican colleagues chose to put Defense on the chopping block . . . above the choice to deal with revenue as part of a sequester,” Van Hollen said.

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