Sequestration

On August 2, 2011, after a long partisan fight in Congress on whether to raise the debt limit (the amount of money the U.S. Government can barrow), President Barack Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011. This legislation immediately raised the debt limit by $400 billion as well as establishing the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction with the goal of cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next nine years. This bipartisan Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “Super Committee” as it was commonly referred to, was made up of six Democrats (three from the House and three from the Senate) as well as six Republicans (three from the House and three from the Senate).

Senate

House

Patty Murray (D-WA) Co-Chair
Max Baucus (D-MT)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) Co-Chair
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

 

By law under the Budget Control Act, the Super Committee was tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next nine years and was to release their recommendations by November 23, 2011 so the full Congress could have a vote on it by the end of 2011. The Super Committee met a few times in the fall of 2011, but unfortunately they were unable to reach an agreement by the November 23 deadline. As a result of this failure, automatic across-the-board cuts called “sequestration” were supposed to take effect on January 2, 2013.

On September 14, 2012 the Office of Management and Budget, as directed by Congress in the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, released a Sequester Report (pdf) that detailed the impact sequestration would have on the federal government should it be allowed to go into effect. In this report, OMB stated there would be an 8.2 percent cut to all non-defense discretionary programs. This deep cut would also include the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), reducing their budget by $19 million. Unfortunately, funding sources within IMLS, and other library funding sources in the federal budget were not specifically detailed in this report so it is not fully clear on how much they would be impacted.

At the eleventh hour with the last act of the 112th Congress on January 1, Congress was able to pass H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, delaying sequestration cuts for two months until March 1, 2013.  In addition to delaying the date these deep cuts were scheduled were to go into place, H.R. 8 also makes the following revisions to sequestration:

  1. Reduces the total amount of sequestration by $24 billion, reducing the total from $1.2 trillion to $1.176 trillion.
  2. Pays for the $24 billion reduction by 50 percent through spending cuts and 50 percent increased revenues.  It reduces the discretionary spending caps by $12 billion for FY 2013 and raises revenues from a provision concerning Roth IRAs by $12 billion.
  3. The $12 billion in discretionary cuts is achieved by cutting defense spending by $6 billion and nondefense discretionary (NDD), which includes federal library programs, spending by $6 billion.
  4. Thus, the actual percentage cut for NDD on March 1 (which the OMB had projected at 8.2%) will be smaller.  However, since that cut will be from only seven months of spending left in the fiscal year instead of nine months, proportionately it will have about the same real impact.