Goodbye deadline, hello budget cuts

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/1/2013

Congressional leaders were no closer Friday afternoon in an attempt to stop $85 billion in automatic budget cuts to federal programs, including the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security.

Trucking and motor carrier safety programs won’t immediately be affected, but the so-called sequester does affect truckers who cross borders, haul DOD loads, and handle air freight.

The sequester, which Congress imposed upon itself in a previous action to reduce spending, could lead to longer processing times at border crossings with Canada and Mexico as well as at airports and seaports.

Truckers hauling Department of Defense loads, for example, have already been experiencing changes due to budget cuts in preparation for the sequester.

President Obama said that his goal to shave $1 trillion from the national debt in 10 years should be accomplished with a combination of reduced spending and a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

Republicans, however, say spending cuts are enough without a tax increase. House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, said his party would not approve a tax increase to replace the sequester.

Despite the cuts, infrastructure spending is not immediately affected, at least in the short term. That’s because Highway Trust Fund programs and departments, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are exempt. Over a longer term, the sequester could accelerate the Highway Trust Fund toward a zero balance.

The two-year highway bill passed into law last year stocks the Highway Trust Fund through the end of fiscal year 2014.

The sequester wasn’t the only action item for lawmakers on Friday. Congressional leaders reportedly made progress on another deadline – this time a March 27 deadline – to resolve a separate government action known as an appropriations bill.

If the appropriations bill were left unresolved, the public could see at least a partial federal government shutdown including the Department of Transportation and FMCSA enforcement.

Speaker Boehner told USA Today on Friday that the House of Representatives was closer to approving the appropriations bill and plans to avoid the March 27 shutdown.

See related story:
Federal budget cuts could affect DOD loads, other trucking segments

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