The term “do nothing Congress” is a misnomer, suggests Johnson. Congress is doing something even when it’s not, he says. “When you’re required to make a decision and you don’t make one, that is a decision,” he says.
It was a year ago this month that lawmakers set in motion the $55 billion in defense cuts for the first year, to begin in early January, along with an equal amount of cuts in non-defense discretionary programs and agency budgets.
The deal that ended a bitter fight on Capitol Hill over raising the debt limit will cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
The deal averted a historic default on U.S. Treasury debt and bought Congress and the Obama administration 17 months to find the deficit-reductions. The indiscriminate pain of the across-the-board cuts was meant to spur a congressional “supercommittee” to a deal. But it failed to do so.
The supercommittee’s work ended in acrimony last November, and election-year politics have prompted both Democrats and Republicans to hold fast to their positions.
Democrats insisted on new tax revenues as part of the solution, while Republicans, spurred on by the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, refused to consider tax hikes and insisted on cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs favored by Democrats.
The workforce at the sprawling Pratt complex in the swamps northwest of Palm Beach has seen its share of ups and downs at the hands of Washington’s budget masters.