H.R. 6365: National Security and Job Protection Act

H.R. 6365

National Security and Job Protection Act

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
September 13, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Thursday, September 13, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 6365, the National Security and Job Protection Act, subject to a rule. The bill was introduced on September 10, 2012, by Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and referred to the House Budget Committee. The rule for consideration of the bill provides for one hour of general debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Budget Committee.

Bill Summary

Conditional Replacement of the FY 2013 Sequester: H.R. 6365 would repeal the across-the-board defense and non-defense discretionary spending cuts scheduled to occur on January 2, 2013, upon the enactment of H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, or any legislation that offsets the automatic sequester with equal or greater spending reductions over the next five years. The bill in and of itself would not repeal the sequester. However, it would ensure that if any legislation to replace the sequester with alternative spending reductions were enacted, the sequester would be shut off. In the event that the sequestration is replaced, the bill would lower the discretionary spending cap for FY 2013 from $1.047 trillion to $1.028 trillion

Presidential Submission: H.R. 6365 would require the president to submit a legislative plan to replace the scheduled sequestration with alternative reductions. The proposal would have to be submitted to Congress by October 15, 2012.

Background

On August 1, 2011, the House approved the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (S. 365), by a vote of 269-161. Among other things, the bill established the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction with the stated goal of producing recommendations to achieve between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction legislation. The BCA provided that, if the specific deficit reduction targets were not met, automatic sequestration of mandatory and discretionary spending would occur beginning on January 2, 2013, to achieve cuts equal to a debt limit increase of $1.2 trillion. Under the bill, half of the annual sequestration would be derived from defense accounts (budget function 050) and half from non-defense accounts.

As a result of political posturing by the Democrats, the Joint Committee was unable to report a proposal to enact $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction last December. Thus, current law requires that there be across-the-board cuts, known as a “sequester,” imposed on January 2, 2013. The sequester will result in a 10 percent reduction in Department of Defense programs and an 8% reduction in certain domestic programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and border security.

In just over 100 days, an automatic across-the-board cut will take effect, eliminating funding for national defense and important domestic programs by as much as 10 percent. There is bipartisan agreement that the sequester would undercut key responsibilities of the federal government. As the Obama Administration makes clear in their own budget, “By design, the sequester is not good policy and is meant to force Congress to take action... Cuts of this magnitude done in an across-the-board fashion would be devastating both to defense and non-defense programs.”

The sequester is part of the “fiscal cliff” that economists and CBO predict, if left unaddressed, will push our economy into a recession.

To date, only Republicans in the House have put forward a proposal to responsibly deal with this looming threat.

On May 10, 2012, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5652 the “Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012.” This bill would replace the across-the board cuts that would devastate our military and other domestic programs such as law enforcement with common-sense reforms to mandatory spending. While President Obama has said he would veto this bill, he hasn’t put forward an alternative. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Reid has refused to bring up the House-passed proposal or offer one of his own. A letter from Republican leaders to President Obama offering to work together has gone unanswered.

H.R. 6365 requires the President to submit a plan and makes clear that if the President opposes the House Republican plan, we are prepared to work with him on alternatives that would achieve the same goal of replacing the sequester and protecting our troops, our national security, important domestic programs, and our fragile economy.

Of particular concern is the impact sequestration, if allowed to occur, would have on our national security.

The sequestration cuts would be on top of the savings in discretionary defense spending that were already implemented as part of the debt limit agreement last August.

The House Armed Services Committee has analyzed the impact of the sequestration, and found that if left in place, sequestration would cut the military to its smallest size since before the Second World War – all while we are still a nation at war in Afghanistan, facing increased threats from Iran and North Korea, unrest in the Middle East, and a rising China. 

Major consequences include:

  • 200,000 soldiers and Marines separated from service, bringing our force well below our pre-9/11 levels;
  • Ability to respond to contingencies in North Korea or Iran at jeopardy;
  • The smallest ground force since 1940;
  • A fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915;
  • The smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force;
  • Our nuclear triad that has kept the US and 30 of our allies safe for decades will be in jeopardy;
  • Reductions of 20 percent in defense civilian personnel; and
  • Two BRAC rounds of base closings.

[House Armed Services Committee Memo “Unacceptable Risk”]

Secretary Panetta and the professional military leadership have also looked at the impact of sequestration and reached similar conclusions: “If the maximum sequestration is triggered, the total cut will rise to about $1 trillion compared with the FY 2012 plan.  The impacts of these cuts would be devastating for the Department… Facing such large reductions, we would have to reduce the size of the military sharply.  Rough estimates suggest after ten years of these cuts, we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.” [Secretary Panetta, Letter to Senator John McCain, 11/14/2011]

General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, “[S]equestration leaves me three places to go to find the additional money: operations, maintenance, and training. That’s the definition of a hollow force.”

The individual branch service chiefs echoed General Dempsey: 

  • “Cuts of this magnitude would be catastrophic to the military…My assessment is that the nation would incur an unacceptable level of strategic and operational risk.” – General Ray T. Odierno, Chief Of Staff, United States Army
  • “A severe and irreversible impact on the Navy’s future,” – Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations
  • “A Marine Corps below the end strength that’s necessary to support even one major contingency,” – General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps
  • “Even the most thoroughly deliberated strategy may not be able to overcome dire consequences,” – General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force

[Testimony of Service Chief before House Armed Services Committee, 11/2/2011]

Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith recently gave a speech about the need to reverse sequestration.  During a question and answer period after the speech, he stated, “What I am saying is, we are going to have to re-write the sequestration law before January 1, one way or another, in order to make sure i[t] makes sense and can fit.  I believe that between now and then we will find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction somewhere, somehow, and avoid the immediate sequestration.  But as the gentleman asked, the problem is now.  If we wait until September we will have done great harm to the economy.”

According to an analysis by the House Appropriations Committee, the sequester will also have a significant impact on non-defense discretionary programs, including:

 

  • Automatically reducing Head Start by $650 million, resulting in 75,000 fewer slots for children in the program;
  • Automatically reducing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2.4 billion, an amount equal to nearly half of total NIH spending on cancer this year; and
  • A reduction of approximately 1,870 Border Patrol Agents (a reduction of nearly 9 percent of the total number of agents).

 

Democrats Have Failed to Offer a Credible Solution

While both Republicans and Democrats have warned of the consequences from both immediate sequestration cuts and the looming debt crisis, the President and leading Senate Democrats refuse to advance credible solutions:

  • The President insists on taking more money from hardworking families and small businesses, a policy that will only exacerbate our current economic problems.
    • Just as bad, Senate Democrats have failed to pass a budget in more than 1,200 days, and have chosen to give up on budgeting again this year.

 

Common-Sense Republican Reforms

Pursuant to the Budget Resolution, the House Republicans advanced a series of reforms (H.R. 5652) that replace across-the-board cuts scheduled in law with common-sense reforms that take steps to address government’s autopilot spending. 

Six House Committees advanced legislation that will:

  • Stop Fraud, by Ensuring that Individuals are Actually Eligible for the Taxpayer Benefits They Receive;
  • Eliminate Government Slush Funds and Stop Bailouts;
  • Control Runaway, Unchecked Spending;
  • Restrain Spending on Government Bureaucracies; and
  • Reduce Waste and Duplicative Programs.

The savings from these reforms would replace the arbitrary discretionary sequester cuts and lay the groundwork for further efforts to avert the spending-driven economic crisis before us.

 

Q. & A on H.R. 6365:

Q.    Why does the bill lower the discretionary cap for FY 2013 to $1,028 billion on January 2nd?

A.    This is the same level as established by the budget adopted by the House. And, if Congress does not fix the sequester spending will be cut to $950 billion.

Q.    Is that inconsistent with the 6-month CR at $1,047 that has been agreed to by House Republicans?

A.    No, House Republicans have always maintained that we would revisit the spending levels included in the temporary CR. This bill is consistent with that position and the House Republican budget.

Q.    Isn’t this bill unnecessary since if there was agreement on a way to replace the sequester then that bill would include language to turn off the 2013 sequester?

A.    This bill does two things. First it requires the President to submit a plan – something he has failed thus far to do. Second, it makes clear that either the House-passed reconciliation bill or another bill that achieves a similar level of savings is sufficient to replace the sequester. House Republicans are demonstrating that we are open to any solution that achieves the same goal. To that end, the House Republican leadership wrote the President on July 13, 2012 asking the President to work with the Congress to find savings to replace the sequester

Q.    You say the President hasn’t submitted a plan, but he says he submitted his budget which provides for $4 trillion in deficit reduction.

A.    Leaving aside that the even the Washington Post fact checkers have called into question the $4 trillion claim, the President has not submitted a specific sequester replacement proposal. Further when the House and Senate both voted on the President’s budget, it didn’t receive a single vote in support.

Q.    The bill doesn’t include language turning off the sequester for Medicare, farm programs, or other mandatory spending. Do House Republicans intend to leave the sequester in place for those programs?

A.    The bill specifically provides that if additional savings are identified to replace those cuts, repeal of the 2013 sequester for those programs is permissible.

Q.    Why does the bill require OMB to issue a supplemental report on discretionary spending limits on April 15, 2013 and require the President to eliminate any breach of those limits?

A.    Because the current 6-month Continuing Resolution expires on March 27, and there remains a need to enforce the discretionary spending limits set in the Budget Resolution and reaffirmed in this legislation for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013.

Cost

According to CBO, “enacting H.R. 6365, by itself, would have no impact on the federal budget.”