Sequestration — automatic budget cuts mandated by last year's debt ceiling agreement — continues to loom over the defense budget if Congress doesn't intervene. The House voted this week to require the Obama Administration to submit detailed plans for the across-the-board cuts that will take place Jan. 2.
David Hawkings, editor-in-chief of CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks to WAMU Morning Edition host Matt Bush about the pressure that lawmakers are facing to avoid these large cuts.
Chances this measure will clear the Senate: "I think the chances of that particular measure are pretty small. The Senate and the House have written different versions of this requirement. Both of them in general would give the president 30 days to come up with a report to Congress detailing how his administration would carry out these cuts," says Hawkings. "This is more a political gesture than an actual gesture."
On why the Obama Administration isn't disclosing this information: "Our impression is that the Administration hasn't made these detailed cuts ... because they believe that in the end, this would be terrible if this got out, for them politically, because it really would give ammunition to people," says Hawkings. "And they believe that in the end, this will be de-triggered and putting a lot of effort into making up this list would be ultimately unnecessary."
Why intensity of this issue picked up this week: "It's getting closer," says Hawkings. "Two things are getting closer. Obviously, the election is getting closer, and this Jan. 2 deadline is getting closer. And there's not much going on in Congress."
Is there any other plan to avert these cuts? "No, there really isn't. There is some deliberation as to whether these cuts take effect Jan. 2, which is what the law says," says Hawkings. "But what the law says is that these cuts take affect on Jan. 1 for a budget year that only lasts until September. In other words, a year's worth of budget cuts, in nine months. Some at the Pentagon say they have to really know by the start of the fiscal year what's happening.