Definition of Budget Control Act (BCA)

The Budget Control Act is a federal statute passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Aug. 2, 2011. The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 was enacted in response to the 2011 Debt Ceiling Crisis. The purpose of the BCA was to increase the United States' debt ceiling, thereby avoiding the risk of sovereign default that was set to occur on or about Aug. 3, 2011. In addition, the BCA contained procedures for reducing the deficit by a minimum of $2.1 trillion over the fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2021.

Understanding Budget Control Act (BCA)

In the U.S., a federal debt ceiling has been in place since 1917. If the debt ceiling were hit, the U.S. would no longer be able to issue debt and could default on interest payments to creditors, the consequences of which could be late, partial or missed payments to federal pensioners, Social Security and Medicare recipients and higher future interest rates at which the U.S. could borrow.

2011 Crisis

The 2011 U.S. Debt Ceiling Crisis brought the country close to default risk before the BCA was enacted to immediately raise the debt ceiling and cut the deficit. The BCA allowed an immediate increase of $400 billion to the debt ceiling, bringing the fiscal year 2013 spending cap to $1.047 trillion. The BCA also required a Super Committee to develop measures to cut $1.5 trillion in spending over 10 years. The BCA stipulated that if the Super Committee failed to propose by the end of 2012 a minimum of $1.2 trillion in cuts that will occur over 10 years, automatic spending cuts will occur in January 2013. These automatic spending cuts are called sequestration.

Since the Super Committee failed to make a proposal reducing the deficit, sequestration did occur in January 2013 to avoid what is called the Fiscal Cliff.

As a result of the sequester, budget cuts will continue through 2021, cutting discretionary spending by $109.3 billion total. Although the spending cuts are considered “across the board,” certain programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are exempt from the sequester.

For the budget years 2016 through 2021 sequestration has not been needed, the Office of Management and Budget reported. That doesn't mean, however, that government spending or the national debt are under control. The Congressional Budget Office projects a $3.3 trillion federal budget deficit in 2020.