Is Avoiding Sequestration Possible?

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., told the Wall Street Journal that he would consider a tax increase if it is accompanied by reductions in entitlement spending. Meanwhile, administration, state and local officials continue to express concern about the automatic cuts that are scheduled to kick in Friday.

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: GOP Senator Open To Tax Hike For Entitlement-Cut Deal
Mr. Graham said he also hoped to bring up budget issues and encourage Mr. Obama to look beyond the immediate battle over the across-the-board spending cuts due to begin Friday and refocus on seeking a broader deficit-reduction deal that includes both tax increases and overhaul of entitlement programs like Medicare. “I’m willing to raise revenue. I’m willing to raise $600 billion of new revenue if my Democratic friends would be willing to reform entitlements,” Mr. Graham said (Hook, 2/25).

Politico: Cuts Could Harm Health Emergency Preparedness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out a new game called Solve the Outbreak that allows would-be medical sleuths to track dangerous diseases in a frightening cyber world. But if the sequester takes effect, CDC’s actual disease detectives may be a lot less prepared for an epidemic in the real world (Norman, 2/25).

CBS Evening News: Sequestration Threatens Health Research Projects
The whole federal budget is more than $3.5 trillion. The budget cut that would start on Friday is $85 billion, or 2.4 percent of the budget. But some big programs — such as Social Security — are exempt. So the cuts will be focused this way: 7.7 percent will come out of Defense and a 5.2 percent out of other spending. Here’s the trouble. The law does not allow bureaucrats to decide where to take the cuts. They must be across the board, cutting the useless as well as the vital. Professor Laura Niedernhofer at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida believes her team of 40 scientists can find a drug to diminish the impact of old age. The drug won’t keep you young, she says, it would make the old less frail (Andrews, 2/25).

NBC News: Budget Sequester: Cuts Would Hit Vaccination, Elderly Meals, Childcare
Four thousand children in Georgia who won’t get free vaccines. More than 2,000 food safety inspections cancelled. Four million meals that won’t go to homebound seniors. The Obama administration is scrambling in the last few days to gin up pressure on Republican members of Congress who increasingly look like they will willingly let what was supposed to have been unthinkable – a budget sequester – happen by Friday. The budget sequester was designed to be a consequence so dreadful that members of Congress would come up with more sensible budget cuts instead. Now it’s been delayed so long that if and when it does hit, it will mean a 5 percent across-the-board cut for government agencies, squeezed into the seven months left in the fiscal year (Fox, 2/26).

Boston Globe: State, Local Officials Fret Over Federal Cutbacks
State and local officials said they are worried about large federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday, even as they have little ­official guidance on what, if any, immediate impacts they would face. … Governor Deval Patrick and his budget chief, Glen Shor, said Monday that they had no plans to cut services, freeze hiring, or furlough employees Friday, when $85 billion in automatic spending cuts would take effect on the federal level unless President Obama and congressional leaders agree on a plan to stop them. … Patrick, a top political ally of Obama, has been speaking out nationally about the potential devastation from the cuts, defend­ing the president as he blames House Republicans. But when addressing reporters at the State House Monday, he struggled to single out specific effects on state services. Instead, he said the biggest impact would be felt by those who receive grants for military, medical, or scientific research (Bierman and Moskowitz, 2/26).

North Carolina Health News: Sequester’s Effects On NC Healthcare
New numbers out this morning from the White House break down the state-by-state reductions in various programs. Here are details from the cuts to North Carolina’s health care programs (Hoban, 2/25).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Funding Cuts Could Cost Region’s Hospitals $50 Million
In a region that counts medicine and medical research among its strengths, a new condition has been detected: fear of sequestration. Hospitals and health researchers are warning that sequestration, the automatic federal funding cuts that are due to begin Friday, could deal devastating blows in the Philadelphia area. Sequestration could cut Medicare payments by 2 percent, which would cost hospitals in Southeastern Pennsylvania at least $50 million a year, according to the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, a lobbying group for hospitals. If the National Institutes of Health budget is cut by 5.1 percent, that would reduce its funding here by $41.5 million, the council projected. Most of those cuts would come in Philadelphia, a national leader in NIH-funded research (Burling, 2/26).

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