The fiscal pact Congress reached hours into the new year will delay $109 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts for two months. But it will make a down payment on those reductions that will affect federal operations this year and next.
The eleventh-hour agreement to avoid a “fiscal cliff” of higher taxes put off the major cuts known as a sequester until March 1, when another showdown is expected over the federal debt limit and how much to reduce the size of government.
Congress and the White House agreed to find $24 billion to pay for the delay, divided between spending cuts and a tax change that allows Americans holding traditional retirement plans to convert more of them to Roth IRAs, a process that requires tax payments up front.
The remaining $12 billion in cuts to domestic and defense agencies will not take effect until at least March 27, when the stopgap budget funding the government expires. The first $4 billion in cuts must come by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, and the remaining $8 billion in fiscal 2014, which will start Oct. 1.