Apr 3, 2013 8:46 PM by John Reger

GQ: Why do we use the word "sequester" for the federal budget cuts?

We're now into the second month of the across the board federal budget cuts known as the "sequester." Derrick Siewert wrote in: I know the word sequester means to isolate, but why do they use the word for these budget cuts? Good Question.

Sequester is an old legal term that refers to when a judge locks away valuable property for safekeeping, until the fight over who owns it is resolved.

In 1985, Congress started using the word to mean locking away money to stay within the federal budget. Lawmakers agreed that first they'd set a dollar limit for the budget. Then if the total of spending programs went over that limit, the excess would be locked away, or "sequestered" by the Treasury.

Each agency would have it's funding automatically cut by the same percentage until the federal budget was under the dollar limit.

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying if members couldn't agree on a debt-limit plan, then the sequester, or sequestration, would go into effect. Needless to say, they couldn't agreeso we're in the sequester.

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