Federal government employees and contractors have been closely watching months of negotiations about across-the-board spending cuts, now set to go into effect in March if Congress and the White House don't reach a deal to avert them. Lawmakers have said for months that they won't let the so-called sequestered reductions happen, but now a leading Republican lawmaker says he thinks they'll go through. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, gives the details of this week's stories.
On what Rep. Paul Ryan said on NBC's Meet the Press this weekend that he thinks the sequestered cuts will happen, and whether other lawmakers agree with him: "There are... on both sides of the political aisle. Richard Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate sort of agrees. He's not in favor, but he sees this as coming... There seems to be this building assessment that at least for a month, these across-the-board-spending cuts will kick in."
On why there's been a change in tune in these all of a sudden: "A couple of reasons... one, these across-the-board cuts were initially supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, and they've postponed them now until March 1. Just doing that has reduced the overall size of the cut significantly. And beyond that, there's the expectation that four weeks later, the stopgap bill that has been keeping all of the government spending agencies open from October until the end of March — that one is due to expire."
On the long-term impacts the cuts would have: "Not much, because... they are across-the-board, so in that sense they are a little indiscriminant by their nature, and so they would put a freeze on some project that are underway. But the notion is that if Congress can come back and unfreeze the projects that it likes, and can continue to make even deeper cuts on projects that it doesn't like, that it would essentially be a one-month pause."
On which party would benefit if the cuts go into effect: "I think both sides will be able to claim a measure of political victory on this. The Republicans will say that they did extract some hard savings, even though they relaxed themselves on the debt limit... and the Democrats will say that it's all the Republicans' fault."
Listen to the full analysis here.