Congress Pivots From Debt Ceiling to Sequester

Congress Pivots From Debt Ceiling to Sequester

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Now that House Republicans have defused the debt ceiling drama, lawmakers are turning their attention to the next big threat -- the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that threaten slash defense and domestic programs on March 1.

The fiscal cliff deal Congress passed Jan. 1 bought lawmakers three extra months to deal with the $100 billion of looming cuts and other funding issues to avoid a government shutdown.

Still, not much progress has been made, which is cause for concern over at the Pentagon, where defense officials are already planning furloughs and hiring freezes, among other cost-cutting measures. And despite top defense officials’ many dire warnings, some deficit-minded Republicans are prepared to allow the cuts to take effect without intervention. Read more at Politico

BELTWAY LAWMAKERS PANIC OVER CUTS     Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from the Northern Virginia suburbs, said roughly 8 percent of the D.C. region’s economy is at risk if the defense cuts are allowed to go through.  Connolly and other lawmakers from the Washington region  reliant on  defense contractors and federal workers are growing increasingly pessimistic that Congress will block the sequester.  “In the next three months, six months, I think only bad things can happen,” Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., told Politico. “I’m not even hopeful.”   -  Read more at Politico

GOP CALLS FOR BALANCED BUDGET IN 10 YEARS     Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans Tuesday that he supports a plan, crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.,  to balance the federal budget in 10 years, an incredibly ambitious goal that would require trillions of dollars more in spending cuts and entitlement reforms than currently planned.  The Fiscal Times’ Josh Boak and Eric Pianin report that in order to meet this ambitious goal, “Congress would need to hack off about 20 percent of federal spending a decade from now…and would likely need to swing an axe at Social Security and Medicare, reducing benefits for the millions already supported by the programs.”  -  Read more at The Fiscal Times

KANSAS CONSIDERS SCRAPPING THE STATE’S INCOME TAX    Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas is pushing for the elimination of the state’s income tax. Brownback’s radical move is  “a centerpiece of a broad legislative vision that many in the Republican Party here hope will serve as a model of conservative governance for other states, if not the nation, to follow,”   John Eligon of The New York Times  writes from Kansas. Brownback, a former senator who was elected governor  in 2010, has already slashed his state’s  welfare roll and work force, merged government agencies, and pushed  for pension changes. -  Read more at The New York Times

Brianna Ehley is the former Washington Correspondent for The Fiscal Times. She is currently a reporter on Politico's health care team in Washington, D.C.