Sequestration cuts loom but no 'grand bargain'

Feb. 28, 2013

Interview with Randy Strahan, a Congressional politics expert.

Without a major reversal from Congress and President Barack Obama, sequestration hits Friday, March 1. Emory University political science experts say we should expect it to happen this time, with the possibility of another temporary solution and no 'grand bargain.'

"Neither the White House nor the House Republican leadership is willing to agree to the compromises that would be required to make that happen," says political science professor and Congressional politics expert Randy Strahan.  

The sequester is a series of automatic budget cuts expected to save the country more than $1 trillion over 10 years. About 50 percent of that money is expected to come from the defense budget with the other half coming out of domestic spending, which could result in thousands of layoffs and furloughs, further slowing an economy that's already puttering along. But, it might also force action.  

"If the effects of sequestration have the severe, widespread, short-term consequences some have forecast, this situation will likely bring the President and Congressional Republicans back to the table to negotiate measures to alleviate the effects of the sequester," Strahan explains.  

The goal of the sequester when it was agreed upon in July 2011 was to force the government to shore up its long-term budget problems, but it hasn't worked as congressional leaders can't find a compromise.  

"Republicans have painted themselves into a corner," says Alan Abramowitz, political science professor and national politics expert. "Republicans are calling for cutting domestic spending and increasing the defense budget with no additional revenues. However, polls show that approach is imbalanced and unpopular. People don't want cuts to education, social security and other domestic programs."  

Congress avoided the sequester in December by pushing the deadline back to March 1.