For the last couple of months, congressional Republicans were content to ignore the consequences of their sequestration policy, celebrating the deep budget cuts as a “victory.” Now that it’s causing severe flight delays as the FAA begins furloughs, Republicans have suddenly discovered they don’t like the sequester after all. Indeed, they’re now blaming President Obama, suggesting some kind of conspiracy is afoot – the White House wants air travelers to suffer to make some kind of point about the value of government spending.
The New York Times’ editorial board seems bemused by the cognitive dissonance.
As it happens, the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount. That law was foisted on the public after Republicans demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011. Since then, the party has rejected every offer to replace the sequester with a more sensible mix of cuts and revenue increases. Mr. Boehner is so proud of that strategy that he recently congratulated his party for sticking with the sequester and standing up to the president’s demands for tax increases.
But drastic cuts in spending carry a heavy price. Republicans certainly don’t want voters they care about – including business travelers and those who can afford to fly on vacation – to feel it.
It is curious to see what captures the GOP’s attention. When Head Start centers are forced to adopt lottery systems, forcing children out of pre-K, and low-income families lose housing vouchers, Republicans are indifferent. When business travelers are stuck on tarmacs, Republicans launch a national p.r. campaign. It’s almost as if the party commends cuts that hurt the poor, but leaps into action when those with more resources are inconvenienced.
Regardless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has offered his GOP colleagues a way out of this mess: Congress can turn off the sequestration cuts for five months, restoring the funds to the various agencies, by drawing upon the Overseas Contingency Operation fund set aside for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fund contains several hundred billion dollars.
So, is this the sort of offer that could help fix, or at least pause, the stupid and damaging policy? Of course not – Republicans immediately rejected the idea.