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White House Says Sequester Report Will Be A Week Late

08 Sep 2012
Posted by Stan Collender

Does anyone really think the September 6 deadline included in the Sequester Transparency Act was selected by accident?

September 6 was the date Congress decided that OMB should complete a report that provided the details on the across-the-board spending cuts that were triggered when the anything-but-super committee last November failed to agree on a deficit reduction plan. It also just happened to be the first day after the Democratic National Convention and the start of what many Democrats wanted to be a three-day weekend news cycle about the success of the convention and the Obama campaign.

So it's hardly a surprise that senior congressional Republicans expressed outrage this past week when OMB missed the deadline.

For the record, the White House said that the delay was because it was taking longer than expected to do the calculations required in the report.

Sequesters are indeed very complicated, especially because the level of detail OMB must do — by program, project, and activity — is not something it does at any other time in the budget process. Many departments and agencies don't even have an established list of the projects and activities for each of its authorized programs because sequesters haven't been part of the budget rules for more than a decade. In addition, there are few analysts left at OMB who were there when the last sequester occurred.

In other words, the stated reason for the delay is definitely very plausible.

However, as with everything else having to do with the federal budget these days, it would not be at all surprising if political considerations like wanting to keep a discussion of the sequester out of the news cycle were also a factor.

Having said all this, the release of the sequester report will be a nonevent rather than a momentous occasion in the annals of federal budgeting. The report is most likely to be a straight forward application of the spending cut rules included in the Budget Control Act and something that preserves the few options that law provides to the White House. At most it will be a one-day story that sequester opponents and supporters alike will be able to use for their own purposes. It won’t change the politics of the budget or the fiscal cliff in any way.

What makes all of the GOP complaints about the delay even more ridiculous is that Congress was out of session on the day the report was due and the event the report was about -- the sequester -- won't happen for several months. In other words, a few days delay won't affect the sequester at all.


Oddly, Obama & Senate Dems are responsible for Sep. 6 deadline

Stan, you ask: "Does anyone really think the September 6 deadline included in the Sequester [sic] Transparency Act was selected by accident?" If you want to blame anyone for the September 6th deadline, oddly enough you should probably blame the President and Senate Democrats, not House Republicans.

First, President Obama chose to sign into law the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (H.R. 5872) on August 7, 2012.

Given that Congress formally presented H.R. 5872 to the White House on July 27, 2012, the President had ten days (excluding Sundays, I believe) to sign the bill before it automatically became law without his signature--meaning that he could waited until as late August 8, 2012, to sign H.R. 5872 into law.

If the President had done that, then he would have had, in the words of H.R. 5872, "[n]ot later than 30 [calendar] days after the date of enactment of this Act" to submit the required report on sequestration implementation to Congress--meaning, the deadline for the report instead would have been September 7th, a Friday.

Second, the Democratic-controlled Senate chose to put the House-passed H.R. 5872 on the Senate floor, and pass it by unanimous consent on July 25, 2012.

Instead, Senate Democrats could have chosen to delay Senate passage of H.R. 5872 by several days--remember, the Senate's last vote before August recess took place on August 2, 2012. If Senate Democrats had done that, then that would have certainly given the President enough wiggle room to sign the law to ensure that the deadline for the H.R. 5872 report would have fallen several days after September 6th, the day on which Obama gave his nomination speech at the convention.

Your blogpost makes it sounds like lawmakers--it wouldn't be surprising if readers interpreted you to mean congressional Republicans--expressly wrote a September 6th deadline into the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012. They didn't. The President and Senate Democrats appear to be responsible for that deadline through their procedural decisions.

My guess is that if you

My guess is that if you sampled 100 random Americans and asked them "What do you think about the sequester?", fewer than 10% of them would even know what the sequester is, let alone what the OMB is. So the idea that Republicans are "outraged" over the late report is absolutely hilariously absurd.

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