The automatic budget cuts set to take hold this week were roundly condemned Sunday as governors, lawmakers and administration officials hoped for a deal to stave off the $85 billion reduction in government services.
Suggestions intended to instill a spirit of compromise included bringing all sides to the bargaining table, where they could act like “adults, a presidential summit at Camp David and even a field trip to watch “Lincoln.”…
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called … defense cuts “unconscionable” and urged Obama to call lawmakers to the White House or the presidential retreat of Camp David for a last-minute budget summit.
“I won’t put all the blame all on the president of the United States. But the president leads. The president should be calling us over somewhere — Camp David, the White House, somewhere — and us sitting down and trying to avert these cuts,” McCain said.
Head Start and programs for children with parents in the military could also be hurt by the $85 billion in sequester cuts, Duncan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We don’t have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is,” Duncan said. “It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of opportunities and services they need.”…
“That’s where I think we should be spending our time, is talking about how we reduce gun violence. That’s the productive use of our time,” Duncan said. “Spending time talking about stupid issues like this in Congress doesn’t make sense.”
“We are just saying — as you identify the federal cuts and savings — give us flexibility to make the cuts where they will do the least harm to our citizens,” said Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican and the vice chairwoman of the association. “Don’t balance the federal budget on the backs of state governments.”
Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat and the chairman of the association, said: “Deficit reduction should not be accomplished simply by shifting costs from the federal government to the states or by imposing unfunded mandates. States should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies and to achieve results.”…
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican, said Congress should be “more strategic” in making cuts.
“I think there should be limited government, but I don’t like random changes,” Mr. Walker said.
“There will be [an] impact on national security, there is no doubt. And I think there’s some misnomers. So it’s really only 2 cents on the dollar over the whole federal budget, but they’ve scrunched that down into seven months and highlighted, or at least put most of the burden on the Defense Department. So that is going to have an impact. That’s a 13 percent cut,” Rogers said.
Rogers went on to argue for giving the departments responsible for making the cuts “flexibility” to ensure the cuts are made wisely as opposed to indiscriminately.
“There’s a big difference from a sailor on the Eisenhower out in the Mediterranean and the travel coordinator at the EPA. You can’t treat them the same. And the way this is structured it treats everyone the same. Can’t do that,” Rogers said. “We have intelligence operations that could get slowed down or stopped. That’s a problem.”
Obama has not resorted to full finger-shaking, red-faced exhorting. Why not? Here are three reasons in order of significance:
1. Any deal that comes from the White House will not pass muster with House Republicans. So every effort must start and end in Congress. That is an incontrovertible political truth.
2. There are no cage-rattlers at the White House. Rahm Emanuel was a cage-rattler. He was capable of making ripples that could tip dynamics and make the incontrovertible… controvertible. The White House today is much quieter. There are no huge, saber-teeth personalities.
3. The agencies are doing the job for him. From flight delays to FBI furloughs, entities that are more trusted than politicians are giving the lowdown to the media, which is repeating it. The projected misery is what will influence public opinion, which, in turn, might influence Congress.
“All the momentum in House Republican circles now is for keeping the sequester as is. I don’t see how any sequester replacement bill could get any oxygen for the foreseeable future,” one Republican aide said…
[I]n meetings with rank-and-file members and around the leadership table early in this Congress, House Republican leaders floated the idea of putting another such bill on the floor. What they found is that members had no appetite to vote on such a bill again, according to one GOP leadership aide.
“The conference feels that we’ve made our point by passing the sequester replacement act two times,” the aide said.
“The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” said Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 nonprofit groups fighting the cuts. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad.”…
“It would be a big problem for the White House if the sequester came and went and nobody really noticed anything. Then people will start saying, ‘Well, maybe we can cut spending,” said John H. Makin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who penned a recent Wall Street Journal piece titled “Learning to Love the Sequester.”