Udall aims to soften budget blow

Bill would give agencies flexibility with spending cuts

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., plans to introduce a bipartisan bill Monday that would give federal agencies and departments more flexibility in implementing the mandatory sequester cuts, a spokesman said.

Udall’s bill, which also will be introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, comes on the heels of two Senate bills that failed to pass Thursday, all but clearing the way for the massive spending cuts to begin today.

About $85 billion will be slashed from the federal budget this fiscal year – split almost evenly between defense and domestic programs – starting today.

In Colorado, $90 million could be cut from nondefense programs this fiscal year, The Durango Herald previously reported. The state also could see an $810 million economic impact from defense-related cuts this fiscal year.

The cuts are designed to be automatic and across the board, but Udall’s bill would allow federal officials to be “smart” about the cuts, spokesman Mike Saccone said Thursday.

Rather than cutting a percentage of each line item on an agency’s budget, Udall’s bill would give officials discretion about how to divide up the cuts – as long as the end number is the same.

The White House, as well as the Appropriations committees of both chambers, would have input in this process, Saccone said.

If both Appropriations committees do not approve a department or agency’s proposal, then the cuts would be automatic and across the board under the original sequestration rules, he said.

“Blunt, shortsighted budget cuts are not the responsible way to reduce the deficit,” Udall said in a news release. “This bipartisan plan ensures that the White House and Congress would work together to replace arbitrary cuts with smarter, focused spending reductions.”

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. Reach her at sdazio@durangoherald.com.

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