Let's take a look at the state of things on Capital Hill as they are. The House passed a bill today rolling the stopgap Continuing Resolution in with an appropriations bill covering some of the sacred cows for the effects of sequestration. Here is Sen. Barbara Mikulski's explanation of the bill that passed the Senate that was aligned with HR 933.
Not many folks are aware that the CR from 2012 was in fact a bigger more odious issue for some of these big moos than the sequester in principle was. That's because they were funded at levels that didn't reflect projections into 2013 on mainly military/national security considerations. This bill was meant to reflect FULL budgeting priorities and the requests/commitments that were made to Hill members back before sequester became political reality.
So what we are witnessing here is that no matter the bluster about a standoff between Congress and fiscal adults over at the White House, the politics of appropriations is going to take the day anyhow you slice it. So What Was The Point?
The bill provides $982 billion to fund the government for FY2013, $65 billion below the discretionary spending limit set in the Budget Control Act. It includes separate appropriations for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, while providing a year-long continuing resolution (CR) for all other federal agencies. The bill would lock into place the $85 billion sequester that went into effect on March 1.The White House indicated that the president will not veto the bill if sent to him in its present form. However, in a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the bill issued, the administration expressed concern about the effect of the lower funding levels and vowed to work with Congress to “refine” the legislation before it is finally approved.The bill provides DoD and the VA with flexibility to implement sequestration, such as increased transfer authority for reprogramming funds from lower to higher priorities, but generally excludes such flexibility for other agencies. However, it does provide additional funding (above the CR level) for nuclear weapons modernization, embassy security, and wildfire suppression. It also includes a provision that would avoid furloughs for FBI and U.S. Border Patrol agents. The bill rejects the president’s recommended .5 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees. Federal civilians have not gotten a cost-of-living pay raise since 2010. Military personnel would receive a 1.7 percent increase.The House bill provides $518 billion for the Department of Defense, except for military construction (funded in the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs bill), $2 billion higher than the president’s request. - American Society of Military ComptrollersOn top of that it includes separate appropriation budgets (effectively neutralizing the effect of sequestration's draconian across-the-board slash on DoD) for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. That last one funded to the tune of $10 billion.
The House bill provides $10.6 billion for military construction and family housing in the MilCon/VA bill, over $500 million below the president’s request. The bill would cut requested active component military facilities construction funding by over $600 million, but fully funds the president’s request for all Guard and Reserve construction accounts, all Family Housing accounts, Chemical Demilitarization construction, and the NATO Security Investment Program.You have Mikulski breaking it down for you:
"The Senate bill expands on the House bill, adding three domestic bills,I guess you could encapsulated the whole escapade in that term "mission-critical".
including: Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science; and Homeland Security. In addition, the Senate added a number of critical provisions, to enable the government to meet its mission- critical obligations."
You see, as we all should know from the experience of our post 9/11 world that mission-critical means a certain kind of exceptionalism in our politics,policy and fiscal narratives we've all bought since the Bush Administration.
And this Sequestration/Fiscal Cliff/CR/Debt Ceiling square dance is not "exceptional" in that regard. In the service of the Great Austerity narrative that's taken hold of both parties Capital Hill has returned to a semblance of a bipartisan budgetary process. It has effectively taken control of the issue from the White House by neutering any leverage Obama had over Boehner with the armed services cuts through O&M.
But the new normal of a budgetary process will only be applied to the sacred cows. In effect it is a Grand Workaround a Grand Confrontation by nullifying the political fallout for the GOP for forcing the cuts on Defense. It expands the playing field to maneuver yet another glowering showdown with the tax and spend liberals as Paul Ryan's PASSED budget proves.
So What Was The Point?
Lastly it locks in the $85 billion in cuts to FY 2012's appropriations through the sequester. This is the new bargaining position folks. This makes legitimate the angle that Ryan, Cantor et al had all along NOT TO BARGAIN. I could ask them what the point of all this was and a big shit eating grin would break out over their faces.
Just as the Fiscal Cliff debacle locked in most of the Bush Era tax cuts for all but the $400,000 and above mile high club, this too is another major pin on the mat.
Each time we kick the can down the road, each time we avoid another show down we lose a huge chunk of leverage and yet still get screwed for the privilege. On top of it, the longer this goes on where we effectively have two different budgetary agendas, one for the sacred cows and one for the rest of the budget, we in fact are sequestering the sequester in such a way that a de facto drowning takes place in the bathtub of Austerity.
Because there is ample evidence of coordination on the parts of Mikulski and Shelby, Boehner and Reid with the probable signature of an increasingly irrelevant President we can only conclude that this will be the inevitable course between now and the next general election.