Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Which Politicians Will Be Burned Worst By Sequestration?


As we mentioned yesterday, Republican governors are bringing real pressure to bear on the ideology-driven congressmembers from safely gerrymandered districts in their states to compromise with Obama on Sequestration. Governors will have to face devastating consequences to their state's fragile economies if the Boehner plan goes through. In Ryan Lizza's New Yorker report on a disintegrating Republican Party, The House of Pain, he quotes former NRCC Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), "leader of a large faction of House Republicans who believe that the Tea Party-inspired congressmen are dooming the Party," on the current makeup of the GOP House caucus: “It will do things that it knows are politically not in its interest... If this were football, some of these guys would know only one play, and that’s to throw deep every time. They don’t understand winning incrementally or winning first downs. I admire the zeal, because we have to have that, but it needs to be tempered with a little bit of experience... These guys have no endgame. I mean, they just are so desperate to do something that they don’t think past their nose. And that’s the dangerous part of this. I saw one of them on television who said, ‘Well, Obama will cave.’ Really? With all the polls running in his direction, his popularity moving up, ours in the tank? He’s not going to cave. Some of these guys will hold a political gun to their head and threaten the President: ‘Do what I want or I’ll pull the trigger!’ Like he cares?”

I suspect many Americans would like to watch that in real time on TV. People are fed up with the nihilists and obstructionists who have taken over the GOP. And the Republican governors are among them. It may be too little, too late and Boehner probably doesn't have the political strength inside his own caucus to put on the brakes now, but here are worried quotes from some worried GOP governors.
Bob McDonnell (R-VA): “They need to stop having press conferences and start meeting. The time for shows is over. We’ve had 18 months.”

Gary Herbert (R-UT): “I think there’s a lack of leadership, period. And there’s enough lack of leadership blame to go around. The president needs to step up with his proposals. Speaker Boehner needs to come to the table with his proposals... They all need to step up."

Tom Corbett (R-PA): “Frankly, I think the Hill ought to be saying, ‘We’re ready to sit down and work on a budget right now, and we will go through it line by line.’ That’s what you’ve got to do. That’s what we do as governors... I’m going to object [to National Guard furloughs] We have enough time that we can give them the savings that they want by not hiring for the vacancies that we have. [But] my understanding is that my adjutant general is being told they can’t do that. They’ve got to furlough.”
The Hill posits that the Sequester battle is going to play very heavily in elections this year and particularly points out the Virginia governor's race (in November) and the House race to replace Tim Scott in South Carolina's first congressional district. With the GOP losing the public relations battle badly, Democratic candidates look to benefit from what is being seen as Republican Party ritualized obstructionism.

No one really imagined a Democratic win in SC-01, a district where Romney beat Obama 58.3-40.2% and where Tim Scott was just reelected with 62%, but with disgraced ex-Governor Mark Sanford the likely Republican nominee against Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, we'll see if a deep red district is open to sending the GOP the ultimate message about obstruction and nihilism.

The district is rooted in Charleston, an area that remains heavily dependent on military and defense jobs-- the Charleston Joint Air Force Base and the defense contractor hub at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station could both severely feel its impact.

Many military veterans have also retired along the coast, near Myrtle Beach and Beaufort. It’s no wonder why Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of sequestration’s most vocal critics, hails from the state.

The timing of the race could also put it in the spotlight. Military furloughs are set to kick in on April 1, the day before the GOP primary runoff election will be held, and the general election will be held shortly after that on May 7.
If Colbert's sister wins this one, expect to see unprecedented Republican Party panic in Congress as obstructionists in "safe" red seats start realizing there aren't enough K Street lobbyist positions open for everyone likely to go down in 2014. And in Virginia, Sequestration, shepherded through Congress by their own Eric Cantor, will be more devastating than to most states.
The state relies heavily on federal government spending, with a high number of military bases, a federal shipyard in the Tidewater region and defense contractors all over Northern Virginia.

Virginia could lose 200,000 Virginia jobs if the full 10-year sequester takes place, according to one study. Mitt Romney, 2012 Senate candidate George Allen (R) and Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) Democratic opponent all focused on it in their Virginia campaigns.

Terry McAuliffe, Democrats’ likely gubernatorial nominee, ripped the plan.

"Sequestration is an unbelievable drag on Virginia’s economy that is already being felt because politicians in Washington can’t come together to find a solution,” he said in a statement to The Hill.

“Extreme politicians who oppose compromise are threatening Virginia’s economy with continued gridlock. It is time for mainstream leaders of both parties to come together and find a common sense solution. We simply can not afford any more rigid ideological posturing when hundreds of thousands of Virginia jobs are on the line."

GOP nominee and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) told The Hill last week that sequestration was “not a policy,” but didn’t weigh in on whether or not it should be averted or replaced by other cuts. He did say that the government had to eventually “spend within its means and Virginia, no doubt, with one third of its economy based on federal jobs, will take a hit on that.”
With Republicans still playing "chicken" and strutting around saying they're ready to call Obama's "bluff" the magnitude of the mindless chopping of programs is starting to sink in with voters.
Republicans questioned whether the sequester would be as harmful as the White House predicted and worked on a proposal that could preserve the cuts while giving the administration more discretion to choose how to implement them. Democrats expressed worry that they might be forced to accept the cuts if the public outcry is not loud enough in coming weeks.

Seeking to raise alarm among a public that has not paid much attention to the issue, the White House on Sunday released 51 fact sheets describing what would happen over the next seven months if the cuts go into effect.

...The sequester-- worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years-- effectively orders the administration to make across-the-board, indiscriminate cuts to agency programs, sparing only some mandatory programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. It is the result of a 2011 deal forged by the White House and Congress to reduce federal borrowing. It was intended as a draconian measure so blunt that it would force lawmakers to find alternative means of reducing the budget deficit. But while Republicans and Democrats have both made suggestions for how to do so, no plan has gotten enough support to pass Congress.

On Sunday, White House officials painted an ominous picture of cuts affecting a wide range of government services if the sequester takes effect-- and spotlighted the impact in states that are politically important to Republicans.

Hundreds of teachers could lose their jobs in Ohio, home to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R), officials said, and thousands of children may not get necessary vaccines in conservative Georgia.

Obama’s aides said they would seek to make clear that Republicans are choosing to allow the cuts to go forward instead of agreeing to reduce the deficit by scaling back tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

“It’s important to understand why the sequester is going to go into effect,” said Dan Pfeiffer, an Obama senior adviser. “The Republicans are making a policy choice that these cuts are better for the economy than eliminating loopholes that benefit the wealthy.”

“The American people overwhelmingly disagree with that choice,” he added. “But in a constitutional government where Republicans control the House, if they want to force that choice on the American people, they have the right to do that.”

...While every other fiscal showdown of the past 21 / 2 years has been resolved at the last minute, there’s little reason to expect that to happen this time.

Obama and congressional leaders have had no face-to-face talks about avoiding the spending cuts. The White House has been pressing liberal allies in the past 10 days to sound the alarm to ratchet up pressure on Republicans, with an eye on making them fold by the late March deadline.

The House returns Monday evening to approve several non-controversial bills-- including naming a California space research center after Neil Armstrong-- with the latter part of the week devoted to passing its version of a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Senate also returns Monday evening, first considering a non-controversial judicial nominee and then dedicating Tuesday to the expected confirmation of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

Neither the House nor the Senate is planning to be in session when the sequester hits on Friday.

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