Congress designed the “sequester” – the set of across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect in March – to be so drastic it would force legislators to come up with a compromise.
That hasn’t happened. With a week to go, President Barack Obama continues to roll out previews of the unhappy consequences and unhappy managers of federal agencies to pressure lawmakers.
During a Thursday visit to Philadelphia, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey essentially said, “Bring it on.”
“The fact is that any competent manager can find some savings,” Toomey said. “Most people in government will claim they can never save a dime. It’s just not true.”
The fiscally conservative Republican from Pennsylvania thinks cuts could be more targeted than those in the sequester, which spare a few large programs such as Social Security, but otherwise enact the same cuts to all. However, in his words, “A modest amount of savings in the various bureaucracies of government would really help a long way and get us on a sustainable fiscal path.”
He pointed out that the phased cuts in the sequester will not cause an overall reduction in spending next year, but simply put a dent in growth.
He has allies in his corner. A new poll from Pew and USA Today finds that 40 percent of Americans say they’re ready for the cuts to go ahead. About 50 percent want the sequester stopped.
Forecasters expect the sequester will slow the U.S. economic recovery. And the Congressional Budget Office has pegged the potential loss at 0.7 percent of GDP growth.
Toomey says to expect more “battles.” He identified three opportunities in the coming months to bargain for budget cuts.
“One of them is the sequester; another is the continuing resolution that funds the government; and the third one coming up soon is the debt ceiling.” he said.
The sequester scenario was created in negotiations over the debt ceiling back in July of 2011. The political wrangling led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating for the first time.