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The U.S. Senate asked the government to conduct three studies on the likely effects of $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts scheduled to start in January.
By voice vote today, senators adopted an amendment ordering reports from the Defense Department on how $500 billion in cuts to its programs starting in 2013 would affect national security, from the Office of Management and Budget on the effect of all the reductions, and from President Barack Obama on how his administration would implement the automatic spending decreases, known as sequestration.
“This is a strong sign that both sides understand the pain that sequestration would inflict,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who worked on the proposal with Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. It was adopted as an amendment to legislation setting farm policy through fiscal 2017.
McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, is pushing to spare defense programs from the automatic cuts.
“At least the American people will know what the effects of sequestration will be,” he said after the vote. He said he hoped the analysis will help “galvanize” the public to push lawmakers to agree on an alternative.
The Pentagon study would be due Aug. 15. The OMB report would be required within 30 days after enactment of the measure ordering the study. The president would have 60 days to submit his report.
McCain had planned to offer an amendment calling solely for a report from the Defense Department. Such a provision also has been included in an Armed Services Committee measure setting defense spending targets and policy for the 2013 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The provision received bipartisan support from committee members.
The Defense Department has said it doesn’t have plans for the cuts. It already expects to cut $487 billion from its budget over the next decade. The sequestration would be in addition to that.
The administration and Congress may not start negotiating ways to reduce the deficit until after the November election.
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