On Friday morning, House Republicans, joined by two Democrats, passed a short-term extension of government funding known as a continuing resolution through December that continues sequestration’s severely reduced spending levels for non-defense programs while giving some relief to the defense side.
Sequestration’s effects have already been devastating this year. More than 57,000 children have lost their slots in Head Start. Cancer patients have been denied chemotherapy. Low-income families have lost their housing vouchers. Domestic violence victims have been turned away from services. The home-bound elderly are receiving fewer visits from Meals on Wheels. The homeless are getting less support, as are job seekers. The long-term unemployed are getting reduced checks. Schools on or near military bases and Native American reservations are laying off staff and closing schools. Scientific researchers are firing staff and shutting down projects. Public schools are increasing classes sizes and reducing staff. More than 650,000 employees at the Department of Defense were furloughed. The pain will compound if cuts continue into next year.
The cuts have also harmed the economy. They have been a drag on economic growth, consumer spending, and wages. The Congressional Budget Office has found that undoing sequestration could add as much as 1.2 percent to GDP and 1.6 million jobs.
Yet a number of Republicans have voiced their support of the cuts. House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) called sequestration “a legitimate effort” to implement budget cuts. Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) claimed that people “want to see more sequestration, not less” and that there has not been “any measurable effect.” Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) has argued that sequestration is “actually working.” House Republicans went further when setting specific funding levels for transportation and housing programs in August, adopting levels lower than sequestration, although the cuts were so severe that the bill couldn’t garner enough Republican support to actually get a vote.
Republicans have consistently threatened to shut down the government by refusing to pass a continuing resolution unless they got spending cuts, and nearly every time an extension has been passed since 2010 spending has been reduced. In fact, Congress has already enacted about $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction since the beginning of fiscal year 2011, 72 percent of which has come from spending cuts. Inflation-adjusted discretionary spending is now lower than the last two years of the Bush administration. The deficit has also fallen to the lowest level since 2008.