Days of sequester: The week-two roundup


Posted by Josh Hicks on March 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

Roughly two weeks have passed since the government-wide spending reductions known as the sequester took effect, and lawmakers have shown virtually no sign that they will replace the cuts before the end of the fiscal year.

The House and Senate have proposed short-term spending plans that would lock the sequester in place through the end of September while allowing certain agencies more flexibility in how they administer the cuts.

The House bill would also require federal workers to contribute more toward their retirement plans, freeze federal salary rates and reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition within the next two years.

The Senate plan, like its counterpart legislation in the House, would deny a 0.5 percent raise the president ordered for the federal workforce.

The House approved its resolution last week, while the Senate plans to debate its version soon.

In terms of longer-term budgets, House Republicans proposed a plan that would require federal workers to contribute more toward their retirement plans as part of a bill that seeks to balance the budget within 10 years.

The measure would also partially privatizate Medicare and repeal the health-care law that became the signature accomplishment of President Obama’s first term.

Senate Democrats are crafting a budget that would trim about $1 trillion in projected spending over the next decade and raise about $1 trillion in new revenue during the same period — the plan would not balance the budget.

In other legislative news, the Senate rejected a proposal from Sen.Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have prohibited the government from filling vacant positions deemed non-essential.

As for the effects of the sequester, a number of agencies last week either issued official furlough notices or warned employees that unpaid leave might be necessary to meet their cost-saving targets.

This week, the National Archives announced it would reduce its hours starting Friday to cover its share of the cuts.

On Tuesday, federal employees rallied for the third time this year in Washington to oppose the government-wide reductions, as the National Active and Retired Federal Employees association organized a gathering similar to previous events by the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees.

Despite all those meetings, federal workers aren’t done making noise about the spending cuts. AFGE plans to stage 100 rallies throughout the country next Wednesday as part of what the union is calling a National Day of Protest against the sequester.

In one bright spot for federal workers, a Virginia gym has offered free workouts for furloughed employees on days when they’re forced to take unpaid leave, according to In the Loop columnist Al Kamen.