In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that, if they couldn’t agree on a deficit reduction plan, then automatic across-the-board budget cuts would take effect. That deadline came and went.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger says he believes he made the right decisions that were in front of him at the time.
“I guess if I could go back in time, maybe I would try to find more folks that agreed with me on both sides of the aisle. That said, this was a big issue and the goal now is to figure out how to implement it in the best way possible,” Kinzinger said.
Even will bipartisan support, Kinzinger is calling on President Obama to take a lead role. Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos says it should be up to House leadership to get the ball rolling.
One of the most immediate impacts -- and probably the one that’s most talked about -- is airport delays. The Federal Aviation Administration imposed furloughs on air-traffic controllers pending cuts. Congress reacted last week by giving the FAA power to transfer authority for $253 million to replenish staffing shortages. Bustos says it goes a lot deeper than that:
“What’s not being talked about is the fact that there are thousands of kids on Head Start who are getting knocked off because of sequestration. Yet, when there were members of Congress who were inconvenienced by delays in their air travel, all of a sudden that goes to the top of the agenda and that gets solved,” Bustos said.
Other effects may take some time to feel, including cuts to medical research.
But as far as a possible solution, Bustos points to a bill she introduced called the Government Waste Reduction Act. It looks at a government accountability report that identifies $200 billion of waste and redundancy. She also wants to give spending discretion to department administrators.
Second-term Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren says the FAA action was a good turning point:
“I don’t know if you’re able to predict the future from that, but I think one lesson that’s learned from it is we can see a problem and respond to it in a bipartisan way,” Hultgren said.
Hultgren wants Congress to take the time to find areas to cut, and says it can be done efficiently through the dozens of committees charged with oversight of different departments.
Returning Democratic Congressman Bill Foster supports the Simpson-Bowles budget plan. It includes a range of spending cuts and tax code reform proposals. It’s been described as 3 parts spending cuts to 1 part revenue.
“The idea that should have been followed would be to come up with a high-level negotiated settlement as to what fraction of our budget deficit should be cured by spending cuts, and what fraction by revenue increases as well as the time scale over which we have to solve the budgetary crisis. With those three negotiated settlements in hand, dig into the tax code looking for simplification in revenue, dig into the budget looking for spending cuts and make the hard and thoughtful decisions that are completely absent in the sequester,” Foster said.
No one seems to have a timeline when the sequester will end. Since the lead-up was several years in the making, it’s unclear how quick lawmakers can agree on a solution.