The odds that a lame-duck session of Congress will produce a breakthrough in Washington’s fiscal stalemate are slim, according to a study released Friday. But the White House and federal agencies have several tools they could use to temporarily mitigate the harm from across-the-board budget cuts scheduled for Jan. 2, 2013, the nonprofit OMB Watch found.
“Most analyses of the impact of sequestration are based on an assumption that it will be fully implemented for the remainder of the federal fiscal year,” said the report written by Patrick Lester, director of fiscal policy at OMB Watch. “However, it is possible that sequestration might be triggered but later retroactively canceled as part of a broader budget agreement between Congress and the president in early 2013” with minimal or no damage to most federal defense and nondefense programs.
Tools to control the damage include delaying the announcement of new contracts and grants, redirecting funds to more urgent activities early in the year and using spending options to prevent agency layoffs.
“The administration still has significant flexibility to avoid furloughs and [reductions in force],” the analysis stated. “First, the Budget Control Act gave the president authority to exempt spending on military personnel, which he has chosen to do. Second, for civilian personnel, Section 112 of the continuing resolution that funds federal programs through March 27 (H.J. Res. 117) provides the administration power to accelerate spending as necessary to avoid furloughs.” Continue reading