Ryan offers bill to end sequester in bid to stop automatic defense cuts

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has introduced legislation to replace a mandatory across-the-board discretionary spending cut in fiscal year 2013 that is required by last summer's deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The bill is the start of an effort to prevent $600 billion in defense cuts over 10 years that both parties argue would reduce U.S. national security. The defense cuts were supposed to pressure a “supercommittee” of lawmakers to find alternative cuts in the budget, but that panel failed to come up with a plan.

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Ryan's Sequester Replacement Act, H.R. 4966, would eliminate language in last year's Budget Control Act that requires the cut to 2013 spending, known as the “sequester.”

Another piece of legislation, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, is a 187-page bill that outlines the various cuts and savings to mandatory programs that will make up for ending the sequester. Cuts in this bill come from recommendations made by six House committees: Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means.

Republicans said in April that these proposals would amount to about $78 billion in cuts to mandatory programs to replace the same amount of cuts to discretionary programs that are required to take place in 2013. Those cuts would lead to another $180 billion in spending reductions over the decade.

These changes would allow the government to avoid both defense and non-defense cuts that Democrats have opposed. Under the GOP plan, the rest of the required $1.2 trillion in required cuts would come through further cuts to discretionary spending.

According to reports filed this week, the Agriculture Committee cuts would save $7.7 billion in the first year, and $33.2 billion over ten years, almost all of which come from reforms to federal food stamp assistance.

The House Financial Services Committee proposed $3 billion in cuts for 2012 and 2013, and $29.8 billion over 10 years. Most of these come from cutting Title II of the Dodd-Frank reform bill, which gives the government “orderly liquidation authority” over financial institutions. But this committee also recommended an end to the direct funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as flood insurance reforms similar to those the House has already passed.

House Judiciary proposed medical liability reforms, also similar to a proposal the House has passed, while the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee proposed increasing the contribution that federal workers pay to their retirement.

Energy & Commerce proposed the elimination of grants to help establish health insurance exchanges under the 2010 healthcare law, put limits on Medicaid payments, and also called for medical liability reform.

Way and Means proposed capturing all of the overpayments made under the 2010 healthcare law that are meant to help low-income people buy health insurance. Under current law, all of these overpayments are not required to be recaptured.

Ways and Means also proposed legislation that would require people to provide their Social Security number to claim the refundable portion of the child tax credit, and repealing some block grants to states for certain social services.

House aides have indicated that a vote on legislation ending the sequester could come this month, before the Memorial Day break.

In April, House leaders reiterated that a replacement for the sequester is needed because it would make cuts to “critical” defense and national security programs that even the Obama administration has said is “not good policy.”

Democrats have similarly protested cuts to social service programs, but Republicans said in April that “of particular concern is the impact sequestration, if allowed to occur, would have on our national security.”

This story was posted at 11:48 a.m. and updated at 2:13 p.m.