Today the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the impacts of sequestration, with testimony from a number of Cabinet officials on how the cuts would be implemented if sequestration does go into effect on March 1 as currently scheduled. Among those testifying before the committee on the impact on domestic, non-defense programs were Danny Werfel from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. Other witnesses addressed the defense cuts.
Mr. Werfel warned of the “significant and destructive consequences” that sequestration will have on federal programs, including mental health, special education, and nutrition assistance. CWLA has covered the expected impacts of sequestration on funding for children’s programs. Werfel also pointed out that of the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction that has already been enacted, 75% of the reductions have been achieved through spending cuts while only 25% have come through increased revenue. Meanwhile Secretaries Duncan and Donovan focused on the specific cuts their agencies would have to implement, including $600 million in special education cuts, the loss of Head Start services for 70,000 children, and cuts to housing assistance and emergency shelter programs.
It was clear from their opening statements that while neither Democrats nor Republicans are very fond of sequestration, the two parties have different levels of urgency in staving them off. This supports the general consensus that Democrats are more eager to prevent sequestration from going into effect while a number of Republicans seem to be resigned to, if not supportive of, sequestration. This discord makes it increasingly difficult to see how a Republican House and Democratic Senate can agree on a way to prevent the cuts by March 1.