Understanding the House Budget: Sequesters

For the second year, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has released an aggressive blueprint for salvaging the country's finances. This year, the debt deal complicated the topline spending decisions, which take a bit of explaining to fully unpack.

The August debt limit deal (the Budget Control Act, officially) articulated spending caps on discretionary spending for the next ten years. These spending caps were set with the assumption that additional savings would be put into law by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, another artifact of the BCA. When Democrats on the so-called Super Committee focused on raising taxes rather than offering real solutions, the negotiators were unable to come up with a final proposal. As a result, an across-the-board budget cut was triggered.

This cut, called a sequester, was set at certain amounts for defense and non-defense spending. Republicans, who have traditionally been loath to challenge the spending status quo as it related to military spending, have since been suggesting ways to avert the sequester. The House Budget does just that.

It is disappointing that Republicans are so reluctant to scrutinize military spending. The Department of Defense is slated to spending $6.5 trillion over the next ten years - a true conservative should not be able to claim with a straight face that DOD can't find efficiencies to satisfy the $440 billion sequester over the same amount of time.

Nevertheless, the Ryan budget suspends the sequester - fortunately, the suspension is at least replaced with spending cuts on the mandatory side. The budget directs committees responsible for mandatory programs (so those involved in everything from Medicare to Agriculture subsidies) to come up with a set number of savings. These cuts will not make up the entire amount of cuts that would have happened with a sequester in the first year, but will offer three times that amount by the end of the ten year window.

Though it is frustrating to admit that even the most committed of budget warriors are still recoiling at the proposal that defense spending can be cut, the House is still doing its part to fix Washington's broken spending habits. Remember, over on the Senate side, it's been over 1,000 days since Democrats have offered a budget.

TAGS: Spending, Entitlement Reforms, Budget Reform

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