Senate presses White House to release information on impact of sequestration

Senators from both parties are operating on multiple tracks to try to pry information from the Obama administration about the impact of $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts through sequestration that are set to take effect in January 2013.

The administration has said it is not yet planning for sequestration, and is instead urging Congress to find a legislative solution to avoid the cuts, which would chop about $500 billion over the next decade from both defense and non-defense spending.

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But there are two amendments to the farm bill currently on the Senate floor that would require the administration to release information about sequestration and its impact.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has an amendment that will get a vote on the farm bill instructing the Pentagon to explain how the sequestration cuts would affect the Defense Department. The amendment was also included on the National Defense Authorization Act that passed out of committee but has not gone to the floor yet — and McCain says he plans to tack it onto every piece of Senate legislation on the floor until it’s law.

In addition to McCain’s amendment, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has an item on the farm bill that would require the Office of Management and Budget to provide information for the other side of the equation — explaining how sequestration would affect non-defense discretionary spending.

Taken together, the two amendments essentially add up to a piece of legislation from Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who introduced a bill to “require the administration to submit to Congress a detailed preview of the sequestration required by the Budget Control Act.”

Thune and Sessions sent a letter Tuesday to Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) asking him to schedule a markup of the legislation.

Republicans and most Democrats want to avoid sequestration, but they disagree on how to find the $1.2 trillion in alternative deficit reduction to avoid the cuts.