Sequester: Democrats have a plan

14 days until the sequester

Today, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Democrats released their plan to delay sequestration for 10 months. This plan saves the government roughly $110 billion through increases in revenue and spending cuts to discretionary spending programs. About $55 billion in revenue would come from implementing a minimum 30 percent tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year, also known as the Buffett rule. The spending cuts would come from defense spending set to take place after 2015 and from cutting a number of farm programs.

The release of a plan to avert sequestration is definitely a welcome development in the science community as well as the larger nondefense discretionary, or NDD, community. But does this plan have a chance of actually becoming law? That seems like a long shot for a couple of reasons. The plan contains several provisions typically opposed by Republicans. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that in light of the January fiscal cliff deal, which was almost entirely tax increases, he sees no reason to raise taxes again. Furthermore, cuts to defense and agriculture spending likely would harm Republican-held districts more so than Democratic districts, thus making Republicans less likely to vote for the deal.

Then again, the Democrats’ plan may have never been intended to pass. This afternoon, both houses of Congress will go on recess for nine days. Thus, there will be no debate on sequestration until the members come back into town Feb. 25. This gives members plenty of time to go home and talk to their constituents about why they favor or oppose the plan. Either way, such recesses before major debates tend to let both sides become entrenched in their arguments rather than finding a pathway to a deal. However, the congressional recess does give us an opportunity to let our legislators know how the sequester will hurt biomedical research. Members of Congress already have had to field difficult questions about the real life impact of sequestration from their constituents.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR YOU TO ACT! Go to Google and find out who your representatives are. Then, visit your representatives’ websites to find if they are holding public events over the next nine days. Clear your schedule, and go to those events prepared to make sure your members of Congress understand just how much cuts to research budgets would hurt your career and those of everyone else at your institution. You can contact ASBMB Director of Public Affairs Benjamin Corb if you have questions or need specific information about your district. We’re here to help you connect with your representatives, so let us know how we can help!

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