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Sequester State Of Play: Real Negotiation Won't Happen Until It Hits

Sequester Congress

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 02/14/13 EST Updated: 02/15/13 EST

High level sources on Capitol Hill expect the sequester to happen at this point.

Some leading Republicans have said this. But Hill aides also say they expect, essentially, two failed votes and then a possible negotiation after the impact of the sequester is actually felt.

The two votes would come the week after next. Congress is out on recess next week, and will have four days when they come back before the sequester hits on March 1.

The negotiations over a potential replacement will be guided, in part, by the public response to the sequester's impacts. If it is dramatic, that could force Republicans to come to the table. If the public reaction is not overwhelming, Republicans are likely to just let the sequester stay in place.

The sequester would restrain the federal budget over the next decade by roughly $1 trillion. Half would come from defense spending, and half from non-defense. It wouldn't actually cut current spending levels, but would rather reduce future projected increases in spending.

Democrats want to replace the first year of sequester reductions with a plan that is half tax increases and half spending reductions.

Update: 5:27 p.m. - Two clarifications. Because the sequester would impact the current fiscal year, which ends in September, the $85 billion reduction would function as an actual cut in the first year, and as a restraint of scheduled increases beyond that. And the two expected failed votes referred to are both Senate votes, one proposed by Republicans and one by Democrats.