Sequester Reprieve

The Defense Department got a reprieve from having to absorb steep spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year with the House’s vote late Tuesday night US East Coast time to delay budget sequestration from kicking in by two months. By a vote of 257 to 167, House lawmakers voted in favor of H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which among its provisions puts off sequestration until March 1 and gives Congress more time to try to work out a solution to the nation’s deficit problem. Sequestration was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 2. The House vote, which cleared the legislation for President Obama’s desk and his signature, came after the Senate passed the bill by a 89-8 vote early on Jan. 1. To enable the two-month postponement of sequestration, the legislation provides $24 billion in savings, equally spread across defense and non-defense accounts, achieved through an equal amount of spending cuts and revenue increases, according to the White House’s fact sheet. “This will give Congress time to work on a balanced plan to end the sequester permanently,” states the fact sheet. “Revenues have to be part of the equation in turning off the sequester . . . as well as spending cuts,” said President Obama in remarks on Dec. 31. (See also Obama remarks following House vote and HASC Chairman McKeon’s statement.)