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.