Friday, May 3, 2013

Remember When the GOP Thought Sequestration Was a Great Idea?

by Sunnyjane

If there's one lesson President Obama failed to learn during his first term in office, it's Never trust Republicans to do what's right for the American people. 

The Backstory: How In The Hell Did This Sequester Happen?

John (Boehner) 1:1 -- In the beginning there was The Word, and The Word was... NO!
Eight days after Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration, the plot hatched by pissed-off  Republicans to show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies  began with Eric Cantor making sure that all House Republicans voted NO on the President's economic stimulus plan.  Cantor got what he wanted, but the House was controlled by the Democrats in the 111th Congress, and even though the one hundred and seventy-seven Republicans voted against it, the bill passed at 244-188, with eleven Democrats also voting Nay.  

[And by the way, if you're one of those progressives who is disappointed that the President has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay -- a campaign promise he made in 2008 -- I've got a News Flash for you: you can blame the congress.  As The Hill reported in October 2009, Lawmakers are using their authority to direct federal spending to prevent the Obama administration from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay ... The latest example came on Thursday when the House instructed conferees negotiating with the Senate on a final version of the Homeland Security spending bill to include language prohibiting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil. The bill already includes a provision prohibiting the detainees from air travel within or to the United States.  And just recently, John Fugelsang told a reporter with Mother Jones: The Republican Party has done an incredibly good job of frightening people with the image of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the most hardened terrorists in the world — supposedly — running through Pleasantville, U.S.A., armed to the teeth and murdering people. But obviously that’s not really what would happen if Gitmo detainees were transferred to the United States. They’d be in the most secure federal institutions basically on the planet.]

Adding insult to injury for Republicans, the Affordable Care Act passed in early 2010.  By hastily and carelessly scraping the mold off the bottom of the Koch Tea Party’s old rotten wooden bucket for the mid-term elections, the GOP then succeeded in putting up the most racist, homophobic, misogynistic, ignorant, gun-loving candidates in the history of this country. Small Government became the mantra they screeched far and wide, they won back the House, and we were blessed with Speaker John Boehner and budget guru Paul Ryan.  By now, The Word was The Two WordsHELL NO, and the 112th Congress became the most do-nothing obstructionist body of legislators in the history of the United States.

Don't Raise the Debt Ceiling, Just Lower the Floor...or Something Like That

Though it gets somewhat complicated here, it's important to understand the history; but I'll be as succinct and brief as possible.  

It was during the 2011 debt ceiling squabble negotiations that the Republican Tea Party got combative with the Obama administration.  Raising the debt ceiling is historically a formality, one granted so that the government of the United States can pay the debt for legislative spending already approved by the President and the Congress.  However, in 2011 the Republicans decided to hold up approval for raising the debt ceiling by insisting, among other things, that taxes not be raised on the American people (translation: forget the American worker, we're protecting the One Percent) and that entitlement programs be cut.  Much to the dismay of Democrats, President Obama was willing to consider entitlement reform.  Even Bob Woodward, certainly no friend of Democrats and no fan of Barack Obama, said, Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.  

By July 2011, when time was running out to avert economic disaster -- and sequestration in 2013 --  the President and Speaker Boehner had what they thought was a Grand Bargain.  A day or so later, Boehner stood up and said, basically, Ain't gonna happen!   OK, what he really said was,  Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes, which amounted to the same thing: Ain't gonna happen. 

The President warned that if sequestration came to pass two years later, there would be dramatic consequences.  Automatic tax hikes and spending cuts would go into effect to the tune of $85,000,000,000 (that's eighty-five BILLION dollars) across all government agencies that would affect every American in the nation.  The House of Representatives  The newly installed Tea Party legislators actually grumbled loud and long that the government was not forced to shut down.

And why didn't the House care about the threat of sequestration taking affect in 2013?  Why, because they were going to make President Obama a one-term president.

That didn't work out too well.  May I remind you, dear readers, of the 2012 Election Results:  Obama 332 vs. Romney 206.   

Let the Sequestration Blame Game Begin!

Washington loves that always popular anyone-can-participate sport of Which Party is to Blame, and the current tag-you're-it! game is Sequestration.  While secretly gleeful that the spending cuts they've been hawking for all these years were actually going to take effect on January 2, 2013, the GOP went on a public rampage against the Obama administration. 

Scathingly calling it Obamaquester, or Obama's Sequester, the GOP took part in their typical charade.  Boehner lied when he said the disastrous defense cuts were President Obama's fault; he actually thought up those cuts in 2011. called out some other GOP liars on the same issue.

But who is really responsible for the sequester?  Take a guess.  OK, it's the tag-team Tea Party darlings Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan!  Who'd a'thunk it, eh?  In late February, Paul Ryan was running around yammering that the Senate wasn't doing anything and President Obama was touring the country campaigning instead of governing.  What he failed to say (heh) was that in order to replace the sequester, the House would have to pass a new bill.  Problem?  Yes, because Boehner would not allow any sequestration replacement bills to come to the floor of the House for a vote.

At the same time, Eric Cantor was confirming to a Politicususa reporter that, in 2011, he and Paul Ryan were responsible for talking Boehner out of agreeing to the Grand Bargain!

But never mind.  Even though John Boehner admitted that he had no clue what effect the sequester was going to have,  he was pretty sure it wouldn't be felt by most Americans.  Paul Ryan was adamant that the Republicans were fine with the sequester taking effect.  Republicans generally were unafraid of the consequences of the looming cuts, and some even decided that the President was exaggerating the impact of the sequester.

But then... 

The Old Feces Hit the Flying Machines

When the automatic cuts began in March, Boehner further lied (is this at all surprising?) by saying that there's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester.

There was universal outrage by Republican lawmakers when the Administration announced cancellation of White House tours due to sequestration cuts.  John Boehner chuffed, The President is trying to make it tough on members of Congress. It's just sick. I want to know who is being laid off at the White House, and Louie Gohmert demanded that the President's golf trips be cancelled until the White House tours resume.  No mention of Americans who will suffer far more from these cuts than tourists who come to Washington for a little sightseeing.

The gnashing and spitting subsided after that little GOP tantrum, and the merry lawmakers went back to their normal entertainments of doing absolutely nothing that would benefit their constituents.  Rand Paul decided to demonstrate further proof that he's an idiot by filibustering gun reform, with senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz providing harmony.  Gun reform failed on April 24.

So it came as something of a shock to their systems when air traffic controllers were furloughed on Sunday, April 21.  Even though FAA administrator Michael Huerta had warned of furloughs and flight delays as recently as Thursday, April 18, Republicans attempted to skewer him.  Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers said, This imperial attitude … on the part of the administration is disgusting. Then to turn around and try to blame the difficulties of flying on Congress is unacceptable.  He further blubbered that they had heard not a whisper, not a word about controllers being furloughed.

Poor Hal.  I guess he was absent when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said back in February that the country should get ready for controller furloughs.

The only Meals on Wheels issue the congress cares about is the drinks and food cart coming down the airplane aisle.  (H/T Jon Stewart)

But all is well now.  They took care of that little issue post haste by finding some money to get the controllers back in those towers, by damned!  After all, it's much more important that our esteemed legislators get back home to their home districts by the cocktail hour than it is to ensure that Head Start programs, cancer treatment centers, and Meals on Wheels are funded.

They have their priorities, you understand.

Oh, and on the Medicare-provided cancer treatment centers?  Suddenly lawmakers are losing control of their sphincter ani externus muscles and pleading with the President to exercise his discretion, to the degree permissible, to administer the cuts in a manner which protects beneficiary access to critical oncology services.

End Note

You seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to get them to behave. That’s their job. They are elected; members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people. 

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