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“You Didn’t Forewarn Us”: Republicans Can’t Decide If They Support Sequestration

As travelers across the country began feeling the consequences of sequester cuts at airports this week, legislators were busy determining who to blame for the increase in disrupted travel. From the beginning Democrats have been consistent in their message—”the sequester will hurt Americans, instead we need a combination of responsible cuts and significant revenue.”

The Republican response to the sequester, on the other hand, has been divided and unclear. Before the cuts materialized, some Republicans were charging Democrats with being “dramatic,” some even welcoming the cuts. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “It is going to happen. It is 2.4 percent of the budget, and it is not the end of the world. We want the savings. We want to bank those savings, and we want to move on.” Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) echoed those same sentiments: “We had a grand total of three phone calls concerned about it. They don’t buy the scare tactics. Most Americans are going to wake up Friday morning and yawn.”

Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) blamed President Obama for the effects of the sequester, admitted the president never wanted the sequester to happen, and then half-embraced the imminent cuts. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said, “We support replacing the indiscriminate cuts in the sequester with smarter cuts and reforms (of an equal amount).”

Others like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) didn’t find the cuts to be deep enough. “Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating. Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess,” Paul said in his Tea Party response to the State of the Union.

Now that the cuts have taken place and public outrage over delayed and canceled air travel has increased, Republicans have adopted a new argument—”why didn’t anyone tell us the cuts would be this bad?” In a House Committee on Appropriations hearing, Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) blamed Federal Aviation Administration Chief Michael Huerta: “You didn’t forewarn us that this was coming; you didn’t ask advice about how we should handle it.”

Republicans have evolved full circle on this issue—from criticizing President Obama, to claiming victory for the cuts, to now indicating they had no idea the cuts would be so severe. White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to these claims on Monday. “We made it clear that there would be these kinds of negative effects if Congress failed to take reasonable action to avert the sequester,” he said. “Policy that everyone who was involved in writing it knew at the time and has made clear ever since was never designed to be implemented. It was designed to be bad policy and, therefore, to be avoided.”

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, April 25, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Eyes Wide Shut”: GOP Representatives Now Realize Effects Of The Sequester They Voted For

Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) introduced a bill on Tuesday that returns sequester-cut funding to physicians to provide chemotherapy drugs to patients. The Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 1416, restores sequester cuts made to Medicare Part B in order to provide cancer treatment and reimburse physicians for the costs of cuts already made.

Ellmers, who voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011, called these cuts to cancer treatment “unintended consequences.” However, the cutback in funding wasn’t accidental, as Ellmers suggests—the Budget Control Act explicitly orders a sweeping two-percent cut to Medicare.

Despite her efforts to reverse its inevitable effects, Ellmers still defends the sequester. “I do believe it will start a very important process that will help our economy to start to grow,” she said. “The debt that we have at the federal level is our biggest threat for our country.”

Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) joins Rep. Ellmers in opposing elements of sequestration despite having voted for it. Farenthold, among others, was disturbed to hear of the closing of 149 air traffic control towers—especially those in Texas. The congressman sent a letter to FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta, stating, “I am deeply troubled for your public statements and proposed actions regarding the effect of the sequester on smaller, local airports. These airports have long played a vital role in economies across the country.”

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) was among the 269 representatives who voted in favor of the Budget Control Act, yet he too did not hesitate to criticize its effects. In Frelinghuysen’s district, children in Washington Township may be unable to enroll in Head Start programs due to lack of funding. Frelinghuysen said, “I view potential budget cuts to such an important program as another reason why sequestration is a bad idea.”

To date, sequestration has had significant effects on many Americans, and is expected to cause upward of $85 billion in cuts to communities across the country. The elderly have lost vital programs like Meals on Wheels; veterans may face difficulty accessing mental health, substance abuse, and job counseling services; and funding can be cut for medical research of illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease.

The effects of sequestration are tangible; millions across the country have faced cuts across a range of industries. Rather than criticizing the effects of the sequester and introducing legislation to obtain certain exemptions from these imminent cuts, perhaps members of Congress like Ellmers, Farenthold and Frelinghuysen should have weighed the consequences before even voting for the measure.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, April 11, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Outraged”: Republicans Overcome With “Sequestration NIMBYism”

It’s been about two weeks since Brian Beutler coined a helpful phrase: “sequestration NIMBYism.” Republicans love the sequester policy they hated as recently as last month, and think it’s terrific that these deep, mindless spending cuts have taken effect.

But they’re not at all pleased about sequestration cuts that hurt their own constituents. As Brian explained two weeks ago, the across-the-board nature of the policy makes it nearly inevitable that lawmakers will see some consequences in their districts and states, “but when those consequences materialize, Republicans either blame the administration or plead for special treatment.”

Jed Lewison explained this morning:

After years of doing nothing but talk about the need to cut spending, Republicans have finally started to get what they want — and it turns out they don’t like it. But instead of doing the obvious thing, which would be to change their position on austerity, they’re simply issuing press releases and statements about how they don’t like the cuts that are taking place in their own back yard.

The problem is that their solution — to make the cuts in somebody else’s back yard — isn’t really a solution. It’s just political spin. There is no magic wand to make spending cuts be painless and for Republicans to pretend otherwise is transparently dishonest and defies common sense.

We’ve covered this a bit in recent weeks, but Republican criticism of sequestration cuts appears to be intensifying. Of particular interest at this point is which cuts, in particular, have become cause for alarm.

Is it concern over Head Start closings? Food-safety furloughs? Struggling Americans going without housing assistance? Setbacks for medical research into Alzheimer’s disease and influenza? Layoffs at nuclear containment sites? Disruptions in the courts?

No, as is it turns out, the one issue that finally managed to capture Republicans’ attention is … airports.

We learned last week that the FAA, left with no choice thanks to the sequester Republicans are so fond of, is closing many air traffic control facilities in April. GOP members of Congress are outraged.

Sequestration generally provides agencies little flexibility to determine what parts of their budgets to cut — agencies with broad missions have to cut every program by the same percentage. But the majority of FAA’s employees are air traffic controllers, and as a result, FAA has identified and announced its intent to close nearly 150 relatively low-volume towers to help meet its $600 million sequestration this fiscal year.

A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans led by Jerry Moran (R-KS) attempted to reverse the scheduled closures during the debate over funding the government, and make up the spending cuts with unobligated FAA capital funds, but their amendment did not receive a vote.

The effort reflects a pattern among lawmakers — particularly GOP lawmakers — to decry sequestration cuts in their own states and districts, but decline to support a sequestration replacement plan that includes higher revenue. Instead, they support keeping small airports in their jurisdictions open at the expense of financing improvements at higher-traffic airports.

A variety of far-right Republicans, many of whom demand deep and lasting spending cuts, are now demanding that sequestration cuts bypass their constituents.

In one especially amusing story, a Texas Republican whined that spending cuts under the sequester may — wait for it — hurt the economy.

As Greg Sargent recently put it, “Welcome to Sequestration Nation.”

Note to Congress: it’s a stupid policy doing real harm to real people. Just turn the darn thing off.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2013

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Sequestration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt’s De-Pressurized Brain”: Keep This Man Away From The FAA

I’m still not sure exactly what to make of Romney’s comment about airplane windows. I’m sure you know by now that he was talking about his wife’s brush with aviation malfunction last week when he said:

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were. When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”

I have a very clear memory from my childhood. I had always assumed–I was five or so–that airplane windows rolled up and down, as in a car. Like all children I loved rolling down the car window and feeling the wind on my face, and I remember thinking, wow, wouldn’t that be cool, imagine the wind smacking you in the face at that speed.

When I got on my first airplane, a little propeller plane ferrying the family Tomasky from Morgantown up to Pittsburgh, I bounded into the window seat, looked around, and with great frustration asked my mother where the hand crank was. She laughed at me. Dad explained the general principle of the pressurized cabin, demonstated so pointedly to American movie-going audiences just a few years before in Goldfinger. And boy did I feel stupid.

Or is Goldfinger a myth? I think of Executive Decision, the awesome 1996 film that I would name as the movie I could watch a million times if NPR asked me (that is, you’re not supposed to name a truly great film, but something a little quirky; I watch ED every time I see it’s on cable). The bomb blows a big hole in the side of the craft, and stuff goes all over the place and a few people are sucked out, but after a while, Kurt Russell does manage to stabilize her, and she lands intact, hole and all. Who out there knows?

Jim Fallows, a highly experienced pilot, as I’m sure you know, wrote the other day that he has heard that Romney is afraid of flying. I have some limited sympathy with this. On the one hand, it always sort of astonishes me that this little metal tube is mightier than nature, and I can’t quite believe it will prove to be so. On the other, I am aware that this truth is demonstrated roughly 50,000 times a day (or more) across the world, every day, and I relax. So I think that’s pretty weird for a man who’s undoubtedly flown all over the world on little corporate jets.

I guess this probably has nothing to do with his fitness for office, on which he’s already disqualified himself several times anyway, but it’s possibly the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard a supposedly smart grown adult say, that you should be able to open airplane windows. It’s like…what? Like thinking that you should be able to jump off a tall building and live. Yeah–someone get to work on that!

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2012

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The FAA Shutdown And The New Rules Of Washington

Congressman John Mica, the Florida Republican blamed for single-handedlyshutting down the Federal Aviation Administration, sounded like a beaten man when he called me Thursday evening.

The usually biting chairman of the House transportation committee spoke with remorse about the standoff, which put 74,000 people on furlough or out of work, delayed airport-safety projects and cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

“I’ve had a brutal week, getting beat up by everybody,” Mica told me, minutes after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a deal that would end the shutdown and avoid the cuts to regional air service that Mica wanted.

“I didn’t know it would cause this much consternation,” Mica said. “Now I’ve just got to get the broom and the shovel and clean up the mess.” Switching metaphors, he said he wanted “to unclog the toilet, but it backed up. So I don’t know what to do, what to say.”

One thing he’s going to do is make amends. He said he would introduce legislation Friday to pay FAA workers for their furlough days. “We just want to cheer all those workers who have been left out on a limb by this,” he explained.

Mica’s experience shows the high-risk nature of business in the new Washington, where even routine issues like FAA funding can become conflagrations. With no goodwill between the two parties, or the two chambers, ordinary disagreements mushroom into governing crises, with unpredictable results.

In the debt-limit standoff, Democrats capitulated to most Republican demands to avoid a default. In the FAA confrontation, Republicans pursued similar brinkmanship — but this time Democrats resisted, let the shutdown happen and, at least in Mica’s view, won the fight.

Mica started out with a sensible aim: He wanted to clean up years of messy funding for the FAA. Lawmakers hadn’t been able to agree on issues such as rural-airport subsidies and landing slots at Reagan National, so they kept the agency going with 20 stop-gap funding bills since 2007.

But Mica overreached. Letting his anti-labor ideology take over, he tried to use the FAA bill to overturn a decision by the National Mediation Board to rescind an old rule that had made it unusually difficult for airline workers to organize. Delta Air Lines furiously lobbied Congress to intervene.

Mica knew Senate Democrats would resist, so he tried to create a bargaining chit: He drafted plans to cut funds for small airports in the home states of Reid (Nev.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), chairman of the Senate transportation panel.

The Floridian publicly admitted his ruse. “It’s just a tool to try to motivate some action” on the labor rule, he told a group of airport executives last month, according to Aviation Daily. “I didn’t plan it to be this national issue,” he told me.

Senate Democrats, seizing on Mica’s admission that the bill was a “tool,” refused to deal. They let the shutdown happen and railed against Mica after lawmakers left for recess.

Reid accused him of taking “hostages.” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer pointed out that the shutdown cost taxpayers more than the program Mica tried to cut. Privately, Mica’s GOP colleagues harshly criticized him.

The Orlando Sentinel, near Mica’s district, took the congressman to task and said it was “pathetic” that “members of Congress now are enjoying their summer vacations, while some essential FAA inspectors are working without pay.”

On Thursday, Democrats announced a plan to reopen the FAA and said they would use waivers from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to avoid Mica’s rural airport cuts. Mica, pronouncing himself thwarted, said he was stunned that Democrats took Republicans “by the short hairs,” as he put it. “Quite honestly we did not expect that.”

They should have. The 10-term lawmaker was operating under archaic rules. “In our business, you use your legislative tools . . . and put a little leverage on it,” he said. “How else do I do it? Am I going to send them a bouquet?”

But Mica, as much as anybody, created a culture of distrust, where staking out bargaining positions leads not to compromise but to warfare. And now he’s surprised?

“People don’t have to get so personal,” he said with a sigh. “A lot of people hate me now and think I’m the worst thing in the world for what I did.” It’s “this sort of gotcha,” he said, “that’s changed the dynamics of people working more effectively together.”

Hopefully he’ll remember that the next time he sticks it to the other side.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 4, 2011

August 6, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Labor, Lawmakers, Lobbyists, Politics, Public, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, Union Busting, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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