Is "sequestration" a new word?

(This question concerns the current fiscal and budget problems affecting the USA government.)

This is NOT a debate about the causes or solutions to the USA’s current problems. I’m simply curious about the words “sequester” and “sequestration”.

My experience with these words has been limited solely to the idea that a jury may be sequestered, isolating them from news and other communications which might taint their views about the case they’re judging. It has been explained to me that in the current context too, “sequester” means to “cut off”, and in this case it refers to the funding that will be cut off if other arrangements can’t be agreed upon.

If someone wants to expand upon that explanation, that would be fine. But my MAIN question is why this word didn’t appear in December 2012. Is there any difference between what’s happening now and what happened then? In both situations the government was at the edge of the “fiscal cliff”, with dire predictions of what would happen if a budget can’t be agreed upon. Why is it that for March 2013 those predictions are being described as “sequestration”, whereas for Jan 2013 it was described merely as “layoffs”?

No. The word dates back to the 1400s. Cite.

Personally, I’ve heard it in many contexts, including carbon sequestration.

In the past, “sequestration” was the mechanism of spending cuts that was set up by statute to ensure that the sum of all appropriations bills in the fiscal year did not exceed the approved Budget Resolution for that year. More info here. Currently, “sequestration” has been used to describe similar automatic spending cuts if Congress failed to pass certain deficit-control measures.

The problem is that many departments and programs are exempted, so those that are affected may experience severe automatic spending cuts.

“Layoffs” may or may not occur in such a case.

The “fiscal cliff” of January 2013 is essentially the same thing as the current “sequestration” crisis–the crisis at that time was averted by agreeing to tax increases, while the cuts in spending were simply put off for two months, leading to the current crisis.

From Politico, December 12, 2012: Sequestration: Where Will the Cuts Hit?

Also, this page seems to imply that the term “sequestration” has been used in this context since at least the mid-'80s. It sounds like it’s just a piece of technical jargon that recently made the jump into wider parlance.

I’m just upset that it doesn’t require steeplechasing.

Ok, I’ll rephrase my question. Was the word “sequestration” used as frequently in this context two months ago as it is being used now, and I just didn’t notice? And if not, what caused the change?

What happened in December 2012 was a combination of two things: expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts, and the automatic spending cuts that were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 - i.e. sequestration. This whole mess was collectively called the “fiscal cliff”. The term “sequestration” was used (example).

Congress took care of the tax cuts (by extending most of the tax cuts and making them permanent), and postponed the sequestration to March 1. So now, what we’re facing is just the sequestration. Which is why we’re hearing the term more.

This is the answer I was looking for. Thank you very much. I had thought that in December, EVERYTHING got pushed off two months. I did not realize that most of the tax cuts were made permanent.