Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.com

Think Tanks Duel Over Easing Sequestration

New progressive plan would count debt reduction from fiscal cliff deal toward sequester goals.

Congress could go a long way toward softening sequestration by simply amending the 2011 Budget Control Act to count the already-in-place debt reduction from last January’s “fiscal cliff” deal, according to a liberal think tank.

In a paper released Tuesday, Harry Stein, the Center for American Progress’ associate director for fiscal policy, said, “When the fiscal cliff savings are included in the sequester calculation, the annual amount of sequester cuts falls from $109 billion to $42 billion. That reduces the defense and nondefense cuts from $55 billion to $21 billion. ”

Stein continued: “Reducing the defense sequester gives the Pentagon flexibility to draw down national security spending in a responsible and strategic manner. But the benefits of applying the fiscal cliff deficit reduction to the sequester are even greater on the nondefense side.”

CAP considers sequestration a threat to vital investments it says are needed in infrastructure, research and education, and called the across-the-board cuts that few in Washington originally wanted an obsolete solution to budget problems. “Congress passed the sequester in the face of deeply concerning national debt projections, but those projections look much better now,” it said in a statement. “One major reason for that improvement is the fiscal cliff deal,” savings from which amount to $737 billion over 10 years to reduce the sequester. That “is exactly in line with Congress’ initial intent to replace the sequester with smarter debt reduction,” CAP argued. 

Many conservatives, however, have come to value sequestration as the only available tool for curbing government spending. Romina Boccia, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, wrote this month that the discussions of undoing sequestration taking place in the current House-Senate budget negotiations show “the extent to which policymakers are willing to drag their feet on even moderate spending reductions.”

Though the sequester is a “blunt instrument” that symbolizes Washington’s “dysfunction,” Boccia wrote, “Even with sequestration, nominal federal spending is projected to grow by 69 percent in 10 years. Lawmakers should deliberately budget within sequestration spending levels and do much more to slow the explosion in spending and debt.”

Both think tanks argue that their approach will grow the economy.

(Image via Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.com)

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