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November 11, 2013

Lawmakers: Spending cuts likely to bite more next year

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

A drop in participation and lower-than-expected food prices allowed a supported food program for low-income pregnant women and children to get through this year without having to take away anyone’s benefits. A second round of automatic sequestration cuts could mean some women with toddlers lose coverage next year.

To avert furloughing air traffic controllers and disrupting airline flights this year, Congress shifted $253 million in automatic cuts to airport construction funds. Those funds are needed to meet a requirement to install runway safety areas at all airports by 2015, so that pot of money won’t be available to bail out controllers again.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said agency budget chiefs “squeezed everything to get through the first year thinking we would come to our senses.”

However, most of those accounting maneuvers were one-time steps. The automatic spending cuts in 2014 promise to be far more painful.

For now, Congress has frozen 2014 spending at 2013 sequestration levels while negotiators seek a budget deal that would ease some of the automatic cuts. Absent a deal, the spending “caps” on agency operating budgets will shrink by another $20 billion or so, with most of that money squeezed out of the Pentagon.

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