The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Stay Vigilant!

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


In today’s Congressional Quarterly, the headline reads, “Senate Democrats Weigh Sequester-Replacement Plans for September Votes” immediately followed by “the White House tries to broker a bipartisan budget deal with a small group of Republicans.”

We who favor reducing the size of government need to be vigilant the next few months as Congress begins to negotiate a variety of spending proposals.  Many in Congress are too eager to increase spending and gut the sequester, the law that was passed in 2011 with the goal to modestly reduced spending over the next ten years.

September 30 is the end of the fiscal year for the federal government and as of today, no appropriations (spending) bill has been signed into law.  In fact, as I write this, of the twelve appropriations bills, only four have been passed in the House while none have passed in the Senate.  This sets up a scenario for the Congress to pass a Continuing Resolution, legislation that will keep the government funded until the appropriation bills can be passed and signed into law.

In addition to the spending bills, taxpayers need to be aware we have another debt ceiling vote coming up soon.  Raising the debt ceiling allows the government to borrow more money to pay its bills.  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said raising the debt ceiling is “non-negotiable.”  We can expect a lot of machinations on this item too.

But we need to be particularly attentive about the sequester.  According to CQ, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed at a meeting with his fellow Democrats and President Obama that he “was looking at floor options for a sequester replacement plan in September” and that there will be “a lot of votes in September.”

Discussions are definitely going on between the two parties and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said any action on a sequester replacement vote would hinge on bipartisan budget talks that also involve the president.  According to the article, Senator Isakson (R-GA) said, “Both sides have been providing solid ideas, and both sides have been responding as a sounding board.  But we’re not negotiating.  We’re trying to find common ground.”

One idea that seems to be emerging is even though work may be underway for a bipartisan deal, there are calls to have votes on partisan sequester-replacement proposals during the month of September.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “In a way, if both of them are defeated along party lines, it might be an argument for compromise.”  For example, liberals have called for more spending on research and education, conservatives want changes to entitlement programs in exchange for replacing cuts in discretionary spending.  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “We’d happily discuss exchanging some of the particular cuts they [Democrats] don’t like for government reforms.”

And this is where you dear reader must be vigilant.  If Congress wants to change the sequester to allow more flexibility within the departments and agencies to achieve their across-the-board cuts, CAGW has no problem with that, as long as the total spending reductions are maintained.  However, in the past, President Obama has threatened vetoing any legislation that gives him that flexibility.   He preferred to demagogue the idea saying, “let's see, do I choose funding for the disabled kid, or the poor kid?”  Of course, he could have said he would prefer getting help to truly disabled or needy kids by reducing fraudulent payments in the Medicaid program totaling $19.2 billion in 2012 (see GAO report, page 66.)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was on target when he said the two-year budget deal that contained the sequester was “one of the most genuinely bipartisan accomplishments of the Obama era.”

We need to make sure the spending reductions stay in place.  Stay vigilant.  Save the sequester.

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