Members of Congress are away this week, but government employees and contractors in our area are eagerly awaiting their return, as deep across-the-board spending cuts are looming in the coming months if lawmakers do not intervene. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing talks about the latest details.
On the current plans to address the so-called sequestered cuts: "It seems like we talk about this almost every week... now we're looking at Feb. 1 for the next deadline for these across-the-board spending cuts. So as we all remember, on New Year's Day, they cut a deal and passed a bill to raise the taxes and to put off the sequestration for these two months. And then Congress has essentially left town. The Senate is gone for two weeks, the House is gone until next week, and what that means is that the leadership can't even start assessing what its rank and file thinks about what should happen next. We heard some rumblings about this on the Sunday talk shows. There does seem to be at least a threat about this from the Republicans to allow these across-the-board spending cuts to happen, unless the president promises to go along with even deeper spending cuts. And of course, overlaying all of this is the fate of the debt ceiling. Republicans think that they've got the upper hand in this next round of negotiations because they can tie spending cuts that would be an alternative to the across-the-board cuts to the debt ceiling. The president says he's not going to allow that to happen."
On Congress putting off addressing the cuts, and why things might be different this time: "It's hard to predict that they will be different, except to say that sooner or later they will have to address these. They can only put these off at one or two-month increments indefinitely, but I think that both sides do have an interest in replacing these spending cuts with something else. But beyond that, they're so intractably different."
On his colleague at Roll Call's story this morning that an unsuccessful coup attempt to oppose the re-election of Republican John Boehner as Speaker of the House was larger than initially expected: "Jonathan Strong, my colleague, has a terrific story that says while in public only 12 House Republicans opposed Boehner's reelection, there were actually twice as many who were ready to do so. And that just a half hour before the vote took place, these other 12 backed out essentially because they were part of a pack that if they had 25 conservative Republicans who were willing to go along, they'd go along. But one member backed out, and then 12 more did... What this means is that we all knew that Boehner's situation was precarious a week ago, and it means that it's even more precarious than we thought."