By Carolyn Coleman
After months of nearly unanimous and bipartisan warnings that the consequences would be harmful to the economy, the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs, also known as the sequester, took effect on March 1. With no plan in sight to reverse the cuts, Congress returned to work today with talk of trying to reach agreement to avert the next fiscal showdown at the end of the month.
The federal government is currently being funded with a continuing resolution that expires on March 27. If no agreement is reached, the government will be forced to shut down. With the hope of keeping the government running through the end of the current fiscal year, September 30, 2013, the House has announced plans to vote later this week on a spending measure.
In a statement commenting on Congress' failure to avert the spending cuts, National League of Cities President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ, said, "This is not Washington's finest hour. Despite months of warnings, policy reports, speeches, political maneuvering and electioneering, sequestration will take effect today. I wish we could say this was in spite of the best efforts of our leaders in Washington. But that is not the case."
President Rogers also took federal leaders to task for the finger pointing that began even before the March 1 midnight deadline. "Congress and the Administration," she said, "should not waste time debating who is at fault. Rather, they should own up to fixing it."
The spending cuts are in effect immediately and will be felt gradually in the weeks ahead as government programs are reduced and federal employees are furloughed.
"The cuts come at a fragile time in our nation's economic recovery," said Rogers. "Families will bear the brunt of the impact as job losses mount and spending pulls back. The cuts that are going into effect are blunt instruments, rather than being strategic and targeted to still allow for smart investments in our nation's cities and towns. The effects of sequestration will test the resolve and creativity of our nation's cities, residents, and businesses to prevent another recession."
NLC continues to call upon Congress and the Administration to use a balanced approach to reducing the federal deficit.