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20 February 2013

How They Voted: Georgia's Congressional Delegation on Sequestration

Two years ago this August, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011.

This 29-page bill gave Washington the opportunity to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over ten years, beginning 2011 and ending 2021, through the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. If the Deficit Reduction committee failed to produce a plan, enacted into law by 15 January 2012, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) then initiated an automatic spending reduction process, capping federal government expenditures.

The BCA doesn't actually cut anything. The law does set legal limits on the amount Congress can spend each fiscal year. In fiscal year 2013, for example, the BCA says the feds cannot spend more than $686,000,000,000 in the security category (agency budgets for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, etc). The BCA also sets a limit of $361,000,000,000 on non-security discretionary spending (all other domestic programs).

The Budget Control Act of 2011 passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives with 269 "yes" votes. It passed the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate with seventy-four "yes" votes. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed the BCA into law.

I think the fact that divided government in Washington enacted the BCA demonstrated bipartisan agreement on spending. We need to get it under control. Democrats and Republicans agreed, as evidenced by their votes in support of the BCA, that limiting the amount Congress can spend is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it will be difficult. Picking, choosing and prioritizing is always difficult. But loose fiscal policies and runaway debt is a far worse alternative.

On the Budget Control Act of 2011, Senator Saxby Chambliss voted No, while Senator Johnny Isakson voted yes. Representatives John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Tom Price, David Scott and Rob Woodall voted yes in the House. Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Tom Graves, Jack Kingston, John Lewis, Austin Scott and Lynn Westmoreland voted no.