President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (S. 365), a two step bipartisan plan to raise the debt limit through 2012 and reduce the deficit.
Sequestration spending cuts begin
On March 1, 2013, President Obama issued an order cancelling $85 billion
in spending from across the federal government as part of the initial
cost-saving of sequestration. The cuts, divided equally between defense
and non-defense spending, were originally scheduled to
be implemented in January 2013, but were delayed for two months by the
American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
Joint Select Committee fails to reach agreement
The committee announced November 21, 2011, that it would not be able to reach a
deal on deficit reduction recommendations. Per the Budget Control Act,
the failure to reach an agreement was set to trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic
cuts over 10 years, with enforcement beginning January 2, 2013.
Highlights of the two-part Budget Control Act deal included the following:
- Raises the debt ceiling by $900 billion.
- Imposes $917 billion in spending cuts.
- Cuts are achieved by imposing overall limits (caps) on budget authority (Below).
- Separate discretionary spending limits are provided for security programs (Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans, Intelligence, and State Department, including foreign aid) and non-security programs for 2012 and 2013.
- Specifics about which programs will be cut, and how deeply, will be resolved by the appropriations process.
Caps on Discretionary Budget Authority
- Creates a special 12-member bipartisan "Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction."
- 3 members from each party in each chamber appointed by party leadership; House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appoint co-directors.
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), co-chair
- Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), co-chair
- Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
- Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)
- Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
- Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
- Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
- Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
- Tasked with identifying at least an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction (Optimal deficit reduction target set at $1.5 trillion).
- Spending cuts, revenue increases, and entitlements are on the table.
- Congressional committees, including House Ways and Means and Senate Finance, may submit recommendations to the joint committee before October 14, 2011.
- Joint committee may hold its own hearings.
- Recommendations must be introduced by Thanksgiving and a Congressional vote must take place by December 23, 2011.
- If at least $1.2 trillion in further deficit reduction is not enacted by January 15, 2012, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, also known as sequestration, will be triggered, with the cuts beginning January 2, 2013 .
- Split evenly between defense and non-defense spending.
- Cuts would exempt most programs intended to serve low-income. Americans and seniors, including Social Security.
- Medicare spending could be reduced by a maximum of 2%, with the cuts being made to payments to providers, rather than benefits to recipients.
- Authorizes the president to raise the debt ceiling by an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion depending on the outcome of the joint committee recommendations.
- Congress is required to vote on a balanced budget amendment between October 1, 2011 and the end of the year.