Key Senate Democrat Calls for 'Replacing' Sequestration, But With What?

by Patrick Lester, 7/2/2013

On its face, a recent memo from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA), released June 28, seems to be calling for an end to unrealistic spending cuts and austerity. But in calling on Congress to "replace" across-the-board spending cuts, called sequestration, the memo says very little about how to do this – which begs the question: replace sequestration with what?

In the memo, Murray points out the damage that budgetary austerity has already done internationally. "Austerity has had clear, damaging impacts on other economies without improving fiscal conditions," she writes.

The memo goes on to say that in the United States, "there is no near-term debt crisis and no need for immediate fiscal austerity." It concludes that Congress should enact appropriations bills at the $1.058 trillion level being pushed by Senate Democrats.

Interestingly, though, while the memo repeatedly says that sequestration should be "replaced" -- using variations on the word "replace" eleven times – it only indirectly mentions tax revenue twice, once when describing the ratio of spending cuts to new tax revenue that have happened already (p. 2) and once when describing the contents of the Senate-passed budget resolution, which it cites as an example of how to "responsibly replace sequestration" (p. 6). The memo never says that new revenues must be part of a sequestration replacement package. The question of how sequestration should be replaced is left open.

The memo concludes by saying that "Republicans are going to need to join us at the table ready to make a compromise." That leaves an important question: what are Democrats planning to give away to get that deal?

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