October 08, 2012
Credit: Credit: Architect of the Capitol
Jen DiMascio Washington
In a moment of desperation, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters he is ready to support “whatever the hell deal” Congress can make to avoid a near-$1 trillion reduction in government spending, half of which could hit the Pentagon in January. But after more than a year of warnings about the devastation the budget penalty known as sequestration could wreak on the U.S. economy, it is still uncertain whether the results of the election will allow for a delay to pass through Congress in the lame-duck session.
It does make something of a difference. “The election clears out the excuses of why you can't deal with sequestration,” says David Berteau, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' International Security program.
But the election does not necessarily provide an incentive for Congress to act, either. If Mitt Romney wins or if the balance of power in Congress shifts, either party may want to wait for its team to assemble next year.
Democratic lawmakers contend they have a punt formation that reduces the deficit in fiscal 2013 and outlines a framework for a sure-fire deal next year. If President Obama is reelected, such a deal is more likely to pass than if Republicans win and want to wait for Romney to provide direction.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) drew criticism for a speech she made at the Brookings Institution in July when she said plainly that allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire could help Washington move closer to a big deal on deficit reduction.
Allowing the tax cuts to expire will enable the party that grabs power in November to reduce rather than increase taxes as part of grand-bargain deficit-reduction talks next year.