INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Sequestration (n) 1. setting apart, segregation, 2. withdrawal, seclusion" - Webster's New Riverside Dictionary.Hmmm. Maybe. But the "sequestration" that's about to hit federal spending come March 1 is described in the media as more of an apocalypse; $85 billion in meat ax-across-the-board spending cuts. How did we ever get to this point?Two years ago the US was approaching its debt limit. The Obama Administration asked Congress for a vote increasing the ceiling and House Republicans replied: "no way."As an ingenious way around the stalemate Obama (who now denies responsibility for sequestration) went to Sen. Harry Reid and asked him to shepherd a budget slashing law through the Senate that was so drastic that it would serve as a lever to force Democrats and Republicans to replace it with a more measured substitute. Reid crafted a bill cutting $1.2 trillion over ten years ($85 billion is the 2013 installment) equally impacting defense and domestic spending.The plan was to pass the law but delay it until Jan 1, 2013, form a super committee of Senate and House members of both parties to craft substitute legislation and waive it in front of the GOP as an inducement to vote to increase the debt ceiling. It worked. From there on things went down hill fast.The bi-partisan super committee could not agree on substitute legislation and adjourned without action. As the implementation date approached the only thing the Administration, the Senate and House could agree on was to postpone the effective date until March 1, 2013.Obama offered last minute substitute legislation that includes tax increases which was dead on arrival in the GOP House. That's where things stand now as the extended deadline looms and neither side has any serious proposals on the table.Who will feel the pain? As it turns out the original legislation exempted members of the military as well as entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security so the ax is likely to fall on civilian employees of the armed forces, air controllers, federal jobs programs, research programs, Transportation Security Administration staff and similar programs. Shipbuilding and infrastructure endeavors will temporarily halt but furloughs will apply to individuals, not layoffs. Will the impact of the cuts light a fire under Congress and the Obama Administration? Not very likely since on the eve of the implementation Congress is in recess and Pres. Obama is bouncing from golf with Tiger Woods to Chicago to talk about gun control.Northern Nevada's Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) may have the best understanding of the situation. He believes the cuts will take effect on March 1 and that Congress will then scramble to take action by the end of March to replace the cuts with more palatable reductions and pass a budget extension to keep the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year."We'll have a big 'Drama Olympics' at the end of March to see where we're at" Amodei said. "It's almost as if there were a preference for drama and emergency at the edge of the abyss every few months as a way of doing business around here" he added.However, the Chicago Tribune was more sanguine, belittling the "Chicken Little warnings." "Cutting $85 billion from our $3.5 trillion budget amounts to a mere rounding error," the editorial said. The Wall Street Journal agreed, saying: "No one ever said cutting spending was going to be easy, and in the long run the economy will be better for it."We will know shortly.- Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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