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Senate Votes to Require Obama to Spell Out Sequestration Cuts

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Patty Murray was the chairwoman of the failed Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the super committee, and has been one of the most vocal defenders of domestic discretionary spending in recent months.

The Senate today approved a bill to force the Obama administration to report its plans for enacting about $1 trillion in across-the-board discretionary spending cuts triggered by the failure of a budget negotiating group last fall.

The Sequestration Transparency Act, approved last week by the House, was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and will now head to President Barack Obama’s desk. It will require the White House to submit a detailed plan on the cuts, both military and domestic, to Congress within 30 days of the law’s enactment.

“I am very glad that we passed this bill to give Congress and the American people more information on the impact of sequestration across both defense and non-defense spending,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

Murray was the chairwoman of the failed Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the super committee, and has been one of the most vocal defenders of domestic discretionary spending in recent months. Republicans have been focused on the more than $500 billion in defense spending, which even Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said will have serious effect on the U.S. military.

“Everyone should understand that sequestration is a terrible way to cut spending, so I am hopeful that the more information my colleagues receive about its impact, the more they will be willing to move off of their partisan positions and work with us toward a balanced and bipartisan replacement,” Murray continued.

The spending cuts were enacted into law one year ago as part of the Budget Control Act, which slashed spending by about $2.5 trillion in exchange for extending the nation’s borrowing capacity.

It is the last part of that lump sum that is now in dispute, with tough cuts to programs prized by Democrats and Republicans looming if Congress does not act to replace them. The cuts were designed to force the hand of the super committee, but the panel deadlocked last November anyway.

The transparency legislation approved Wednesday night requires that the president’s report to Congress include discretionary appropriations estimates for each category of the sequestration percentages, the amount of cuts necessary to achieve that number, an identification of each account funded by regular appropriations to be sequestered in fiscal 2013 and estimates for accounts not funded by the regular appropriation.

For direct spending, the bill requires estimates for defense and nondefense functions based on the sequestration percentages, an identification of the reductions required in direct spending accounts and an identification of all exempt accounts.

The last section of the legislation requires the Office of Management and Budget to assist the president in compiling information from federal agencies on program, project and activity levels to determine the affects of the cuts on each agency.

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