House passage of sequester plan does not change grim outlook
Despite narrow passage in the House of yet another plan to avert sequestration through cuts to domestic spending.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), which would replace coming sequestration cuts to defense by trimming back eligibility for food stamps and other programs, passed by a slight 215-209 margin, and is likely to remain in the pile of other House-passed alternatives to sequestration that won’t get a second look in the Senate. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) authored and passed a proposal earlier this year that would cut back on entitlements to avert the sequester, while another bill that would find savings in scaling back the federal civilian workforce also passed in the House with strong Republican support.
“The risks of unchecked spending are grave,” Cantor said on Thursday as he rose to defend his bill. “The consequences of our debt crisis will be felt by every student looking for a job that matches their skills after graduation, by every retiree counting on Social Security and Medicare, and by every small business owner looking to expand and hire.”
But while the legislation did pass, the country may find itself even closer to sequestration after this week with the scuttling of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B” proposal.
The White House has promised to veto any deficit reduction plan that does not also include revenue increases.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday released a first public memo to Defense Department employees to instruct them on how to prepare for sequestration.
He told staff that operations would not immediately change on Jan. 2 if the sequester were still in effect, but warned that employee furloughs might eventually be necessary.
“Sequestration was never intended to be implemented,” he said, “and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario.”