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The once politically unfathomable option of sequestration is now considered inevitable by many. The threat was created less than two years ago by Congress and the White House as the ultimate insurance policy against legislative inaction on debt problems in the United States.

No one thought it would, or could happen. The theory of the sequester was simple: by combining the threat of large-scale defense cuts, which Republicans generally object to, with large-scale domestic program cuts, which Democrats generally object to, Congress and the White House could spur itself into action to addressing long term debt and spending issues since the alternative was politically unpalatable.

The cuts will reduce domestic programs by 5.1 percent and defense by 8 percent; but since the cuts come in the middle of the fiscal year, the impact is closer to 9 percent for nondefense and 13 percent for defense programs. Most agencies will likely see 14-day furloughs for employees and will lay off new hires.

The National Air Traffic Controllers association released a report last month stating that the 8.2 percent mandated FAA cuts could cause furloughs of more than 2,000 air traffic controllers – 12 percent of the workforce – in addition to severely impacting NextGen projects.

Any agreement to avert or reverse sequestration will probably need to be done the old fashioned way, through the committee structure and debates on the House and Senate floors. No more backroom deals, no more rushed bills.

The general feeling among Republicans is that because they caved during the fiscal cliff fight, they have to dig in on sequestration, while many liberal Democrats feel that sequestration is better than steep cuts to entitlements. And relationships on both sides of the aisle have deteriorated to the point that neither side has a realistic idea on where the other will bend.

Thus, the United States waits until March with the hope that Democrats and Republicans will compromise. HAI continues to work with the FAA and National Park Service to ensure any effects of sequestration are minimized.

Posted in: Legislative News
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