By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Session unlikely to end debate in Congress over sequestration
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was in Norman on Wednesday, meeting with members of the local business community and voicing his concerns about sequestration and the possible loss of jobs resulting from automatic spending cuts.
When Congress passes appropriations bills in excess of limits previously set down for itself in the annual budget resolution, reductions must be made to avoid an automatic, across-the-board cutback called sequestration. The threat of sequestration currently hangs over the nation, with members of Congress unable or unwilling to agree on the needed cuts.
While some vital programs are protected from sequestration, defense and other cuts will occur on Jan. 2 if something does not change in the current scenario.
Inhofe has joined fellow Republicans in blasting the Obama administration for the possible fallout from sequestration cuts.
“Last week, the Office of Management and Budget provided guidance that said they would cover any potential litigation costs or employee compensation costs that could be brought against contracting companies as a result of their failure to follow the WARN Act,” Inhofe said in a press release Monday.
Inhofe is concerned that employers such as Lockheed Martin could ask for millions in reimbursements from lawsuits resulting from a failure to follow the 60-day notification requirements outlined in WARN.
Inhofe further referenced a July report by the Aerospace Industries Association that estimates defense and non-defense sequestration could result in the loss of 2.1 million jobs.
The White House, through the Office of Management and Budget in accordance with the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, issued a report Sept. 14 outlining the possible fallout from sequestration.
“In August 2011, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted for the threat of sequestration as a mechanism to force Congress to act on further deficit reduction,” according to the transparency report. “The specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense programs was intended to drive both sides to compromise. The sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented.
“The administration strongly believes that sequestration is bad policy and that Congress can and should take action to avoid it by passing a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package.”
The president has proposed plans for cuts on two separate occasions. His Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction was presented to the Joint Committee in September 2011, and the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget proposed “$2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue. Both plans included over $4 trillion in deficit reduction, including the deficit reduction in the BCA itself, far exceeding the amount that would have been required of the Joint Committee to avoid sequestration.”
The report said Congress members have focused “on unbalanced solutions” that “do not represent realistic, fair or responsible ways to avoid sequestration.”
Inhofe disagrees and believes he has a plan that will work.
It’s not a plan Democrats are likely to favor, and the senator said his best hopes of getting the bill passed will come after newly elected officials take office Jan. 2. He said Republicans anticipate a majority in the House and Senate.
Inhofe’s proposal, Sequestration Prevention Act of 2012 (S.3473), repeals the sequestration established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and offers a long-term solution that proposes to offset the cost of $61.2 billion over 10 years.
The legislation replaces the $1.2 trillion sequestration cuts with the following:
· Repeals portions of the health care bill.
· Eliminates the federal food stamp program and replaces it with block grants to the states, allowing states to design and manage their own programs.
· Reduces Medicaid spending by $1.2 trillion and will hand over the management of the program to the states.
· Reduces Non-Defense Discretionary Spending to FY 2006 levels.
· Freezes non-defense spending at FY 06 levels through FY 2017; allows 2 percent annual increase thereafter.
· Reduces the federal work force by 10 percent through attrition.
· Enacts Medical Malpractice Tort Reform by capping non-economic damages at $250,000 and punitive damages at $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages, whichever is greater.
· Repeals funding of activities related to climate change and global warming.
Inhofe has voiced strong concerns on the impact of sequestration to the defense industry and national security.