The GOP is dead? Talk to Obama about the sequester
Writing off a political party because they lose an election or two is dangerous - as President Obama and the Democrats discovered with mandatory cuts that led to a bogus furlough for air traffic controllers. The administration's dog and pony show on how badly the sequester is hurting blew up in their faces as it became clear that the delays at airports over the last week could have easily been avoided.
The House passed an accounting fix for the FAA - who could have done it themselves - and the president is expected to sign it. And the House GOP is crying "foul" at the way the FAA refused to mitigate the impact of sequester cuts on the flying public.
"There are some in the Obama administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts, and to impose more tax hikes on the American people," Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said during the Republican weekly address.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughing employees this week, including air traffic controllers, as a part of automatic budget cuts required by the sequester. The furloughs resulted in long flight delays for passengers across the country.
The White House said the law forced the FAA to furlough the employees, but Shuster argued the administration had more flexibility.
"They could have cut spending elsewhere," Shuster said. "They could have taken into account air traffic patterns, and made sure controllers would be in place where they were most needed. Or they could have reached out to Congress and the airlines to have a plan in place ahead of time."
Congress passed legislation this week restructuring the $600 million FAA cuts to avoid the flight delays. President Obama has said he will sign it.
Shuster applauded the public for putting pressure on the White House to accept a legislative fix to the flight delays. The administration had previously argued that any legislative solution should address the sequester as a whole, and not spare particular programs.
"The pressure worked, and again we've seen that when the people speak out, government has an obligation to listen," Shuster said.
The Republicans are making hash of administration arguments that we can't cut the budget without catastrophic effects on the public. Certainly, there is going to be pain. The idiotic way the sequester is structured guarantees that. But cutting the budget without raising taxes is the real issue and the GOP appears to be winning the argument.
Liberals are whining about losing the sequester fight.
The Democrats have lost on sequestration.
That's the simple reality of Friday's vote to ease the pain for the Federal Aviation Administration. By assenting to it, Democrats have agreed to sequestration for the foreseeable future.
Recall the Democrats' original theory of the case: Sequestration was supposed to be so threatening that Republicans would agree to a budget deal that included tax increases rather than permit it to happen. That theory was wrong. The follow-up theory was that the actual pain caused by sequestration would be so great that it would, in a matter of months, push the two sides to agree to a deal. Democrats just proved that theory wrong, too.
In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it's even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It's worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.
That particular meme about only the rich fly has become part of the sequestration narrative the past few days and is laughably false. It conveniently ignores the attempt by the administration to deliberately inflict pain on the American people to win a political argument. If there has been a more cynical exercise of power in recent memory, I can't think of it.
Going into the summer, we will hear horror stories about how the national parks will only be open so many hours and may be forced to close down a few days a month. We will also be treated to a parade of teachers let go because of the sequester. The American people will have to decide in their own mind whether it was cruel Republicans or spineless Democrats who are responsible.
But no matter what happens, the sequester appears here to stay.