Sequestration nightmare over by Sept. 30? Maybe

Saying sequestration might be over by Sept. 30 overstates the case, but one policy expert believes a delay of a year might be in the works.

Sometimes, fear of reprisals and political gridlock can work in your favor.

The way Trey Hodgkins--TechAmerica’s new senior vice president of global public sector advocacy--tells it, members of Congress are reluctant to act on most issues so close to an election because doing so might give opponents ammunition to use against them.

One exception, though, is sequestration; in fact, not acting might be worse.

Now, don’t expect a silver bullet solution. Hodgkins predicts that sequestration’s deadline of Jan. 3 will be pushed back, and that the delay will be an amendment to a continuing resolution to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30 when the fiscal year ends.

There is already an agreement for a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until March, so adding a sequestration delay shouldn’t be that difficult.

But a March delay for sequestration really isn’t that significant, Hodgkins told a group of reporters.

He’s hoping for a year’s delay. That will give the new Congress and a new administration of either party time to come up with a new plan.

Besides being a manufactured crisis, the big issue with sequestration is that no one really knows where specific cuts will come, nor does anyone know what programs and contracts will be affected. The Obama administration is slated to release guidance on Friday, but Hodgkins said it will likely not have the detail that contractors need to make plans.

But let's say sequestration does get pushed back a year; that doesn’t mean that the lame duck session of Congress won’t have a full agenda in November and December.

They’ll still need to do something on the Bush tax cuts and the 2 percent withholding tax exemption, both of which are set to expire.

No one wants to deal with those issues now because it is sure to make someone mad before the election. So, they are avoiding those issues, Hodgkins said.

But are the few weeks in the lame duck session enough time to take on huge issues such as tax reform? Maybe, according to Hodgkins.

Me, I’m not so sure. Perhaps we’ll see another six-month or a year extension on the tax cuts, as well. And maybe another delay beyond that. There’s nothing like governing by procrastination.