Obama blinks on sequestration


On Sunday, Tea Party Patriots’ legislative expert Bill Pascoe explained to local coordinators how sequestration had set up a battle between the GOP and the Democratic Party on who would blink first: when the public finally saw the alleged impact of sequestration – in this case, the airline delays – would the GOP compromise on sequestration, or would Democrats allow more flexibility for the spending reductions?

Last week Democrats, particularly President Obama, blinked. As Bill explained, the House and Senate passed legislation to allow flexibility for the FAA’s implementation of sequestration. This has Democrats frustrated, and, as of yesterday and today, worried. From Roll Call last night:

The Obama administration’s strategy for replacing the sequester has always been to rely on public pressure when the automatic spending cuts start to sting.

But with the White House’s recent willingness to create special workarounds for programs such as the Federal Aviation Administration and meat inspectors, many Democrats fear the president is giving away all his leverage on the issue.

Democrats are frustrated that the White House still seems to think Republicans are going to come to the table and reverse the sequester. But from the 2011 supercommittee to refusing to go over the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Eve 2012 to last week’s air-traffic-control furlough fix, the administration has caved on every pressure point it designed.

Democratic frustration is understandable, given the situation, and how their preferred programs, such as Head Start, are not getting the same attention the FAA and other prominent programs and agencies receive:

Congressional Democrats are frustrated. They still feel burned from the fiscal-cliff negotiations and largely believe that the current situation came from the White House’s refusal to go over the fiscal cliff.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. negotiated a two-month delay of the sequester while letting Republicans off the hook on the thing that would have hurt them most: massive tax increases for everyone.

The White House’s backup plan was in pressuring the GOP after the cuts were implemented, when real Americans started to be affected by them. And the administration is backing down on that now, too.

“It’s been a series of retreats since the fiscal cliff. The impetus of this all was giving up on the fiscal cliff and now we’re stuck with it,” one Democratic aide said. “It’s just really frustrating. We were there, we were ready to go, and we gave it up, and I think it just shows a lack of understanding of Congress.”

The aide said that the White House’s tactics have resulted in sparing Republicans from political pain.

Over at USA TODAY, Glenn Reynolds has three great insights. The piece is worth reading in full, but here are the three key points:

First, the Administration’s plan to cause pain simply didn’t work – partially because sequestration itself isn’t causing much pain, and the Administration’s efforts to cause pain were ineffective. Reynolds:

The tour-canceling just looked mean, and the problem with targeting air travel is that members of Congress, and their top donors, fly a lot. Huge bipartisan majorities in Congress thus quickly passed legislation forcing the FAA to make cuts elsewhere instead.

Second, Reynolds points out that there are many critics of across-the-board spending reductions. “Smart cuts” are often preferred. Yet Congress seems unable to do “smart cuts,” so we are left with the “meat-cleaver” approach.

And finally:

To the political class, whatever the rhetoric, government programs aren’t tools for improving the country. They’re tools for acquiring the main goal of the political class: more power, which leads to more patronage, more graft (legal and otherwise) and a boost to their all-encompassing sense of self-importance.

The abuse of federal power over air traffic control is just another example of this problem. The best response to such abuse is to punish them by privatizing air traffic control so that they can’t do it again. That it will also produce better service at lower cost is just a bonus.

Tea Party Patriots holds the position that sequestration isn’t enough to prevent a fiscal crisis, but it is the first step in righting the nation’s fiscal ship. It’s not often we get to say this, but kudos to the GOP for forcing the Administration to retreat on its plans for sequestration. Thanks for standing with the American people against the Administration’s petulant manipulations of the sequester.