The President signed HR 5872 today, known as the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012. This law, which sailed through Congress with almost no objection, requires the President to submit a report to Congress within 30 days, so by September 6, 2012, a “detailed report on the sequestration required to be ordered … for fiscal year 2013 on January 2, 2013.” The report needs to contain estimates of how many cuts will be required for which specific federal agencies, including all discretionary and defense cuts. Congress also wants to know precisely what programs the Administration would exempt under the law, as well as “any other data and explanations that enhance public understanding of the sequester and actions to be taken under it.” The Office of Management and Budget will carry out the report.
Once the report gets distributed to Congress, we’re going to see a massive fiction perpetrated, where Republicans will decide that the President has decreed to subject the budget to these cuts, even though they voted for the law that mandated the sequester. This will become “Barack Obama’s plan for the future” for the subsequent couple months, and they will highlight every single cut to the defense budget as symptomatic of “the weakening of America.” Their agency in the whole enterprise will get deleted in the exchange, and they will turn into bleeding heart liberals saying things like “there’s a job behind every one of those budget cuts,” maybe even pulling out poor souls whose livelihood would dry up if the cuts proceeded.
However, the timing of this is significant. President Obama signed the bill to give OMB a September 6 deadline for issuing the report. September 6 is the Thursday after Labor Day, and the week before the Democratic National Convention, as well as one week after Mitt Romney’s nomination speech at the Republican National Convention. So there are multiple news holes in which to fit the OMB sequester report, and I’m sure the Administration will take advantage of one of them. The day after the RNC, on a Friday afternoon before Labor Day, sounds about right.
This doesn’t mean that the Romney campaign won’t dredge up the report after the fact, and accuse the President of giving up on America or something with all the cuts. The fact that they passed Congress as part of separate process won’t come up.