Yesterday the Senate passed, by Unanimous Consent no less, a measure to allow the FAA flexibility in administering its Sequester cuts so, presumably, they can end the furloughs of Air Traffic Controllers. The House is expected to pass this same bill today.
This has me fuming on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. From the Republican surprise that the 10% across the board FAA cuts included air traffic controllers causing flight delays, to the cherry picking of fixing sequester cuts for the FAA while not caring about sequester cuts which curtailed cancer treatments and kicked poor kids out of Head Start, to the Dems. missing a golden political opportunity to end all the Sequester cuts. Join me after the jump /\ if you feel like venting with me.
In an effort to keep my rant in order (I sometimes don't write coherently when I'm pissed), I'll start with the Republican's surprise and outrage over the sequester caused flight delays. From this TPM Post we get this:
Across the Capitol, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said, “We’re willing to look at what the Senate’s going to propose.”These are the Republican Dudes who voted for "Across the Board Cuts" in the Sequester bill, whose Speaker referred to it as getting 95% of the cuts they wanted. Didn't they read the Bill? What part of ACROSS THE BOARD don't they understand. Then they complain they were never told that these cuts would cause flight delays, when there are numerous video clips of hearings where the FAA and Transportation Secretary LaHood told them just that more than 4 months ago.
He said he believes the FAA has the authority it needs under existing law to shift funds and end the furloughs of air traffic controllers, and any legislation should be “very, very limited” and direct the agency to use the flexibility it already has.
In a reflection of the political undercurrents, another House Republican, Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma, said FAA employees “are being used as pawns by this (Obama) administration to be able to implement the maximum amount of pain on the American people when it does not have to be this way.”
Now on to my "Cherry Picking" Rant. From the Huffington Post we get this:
Lawmakers have moved to reduce the impact of other sequestration cuts. Meat inspectors were granted a reprieve from furloughs, and tuition assistance for military members was restored. But other consequences of the mandatory budget cuts have taken place with little political backlash. Head Start has fired teachers and closed classrooms, Meals on Wheels has scaled back its services. Private cancer clinics have denied treatment for Medicare patients.
Do you see what's going on here. Remember that few middle class people fly regularly, and the poor don't fly at all. So the FAA cuts don't effect them. Such delays mostly inconvenience the upper class who fly frequently for business and pleasure. So we got to do something immediately for those folks because God Forbid they have to wait a few hours longer in an airport. But the poor kid who needs Head Start to get ahead in school and in life, or the old person who can't get what may be their only meal of the day delivered to them, or the poor person with cancer on medicaid or medicare who can't get their life saving cancer treatments. Well no one in Congress apparently gives 2 shits about them. Republicans throwing the poor and lower middle class overboard again, and the Dems. just stand around and watch.
Finally, I'll leave you with the quickest Harry Reid cave in ever. Again from TPM we get this:
Amid GOP complaints about airport delays caused by sequestration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he intends to promptly introduce legislation to use war savings to pay down automatic, across the board spending cuts for five months.So:
“I think we should do something about sequestration. It’s important we do,” he told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing. “We should do what was in one of the Ryan budgets, and that is use the overseas contingency fund to delay the implementation of sequestration. We could do it for five months. During this five month period, we could come up with something longer-term.”
The Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) fund contains approximately half a trillion unspent dollars, thanks to troop drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposals assume a declining trajectory of OCO spending as estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
“There’s about $650 billion there,” Reid said. “Let’s use a small part of that to delay sequestration for five months. We’re going to move to that later this afternoon.”
The move leaves Republicans with a tough choice. Outside the context of the Ryan budget, they have routinely opposed using OCO funds for anything other than deficit reduction, dismissing the idea as a budget gimmick. But amid complaints from middle class constituents inconvenienced by air-traffic delays, they may have a hard time blocking a measure that promises temporarily and painless relief.
The majority leader signaled he wants to advance the measure alongside online sales tax legislation currently pending on the floor. But he may need Republican consent to do that — if they object Reid will either have to take further measures to advance his sequestration plan right away, or put off action on it until early next month.
“We can do two things at once,” Reid said.
Top Republican aides swiftly pushed back on Reid’s plan after it was reported.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) office told TPM that it shows Reid is rebuffing President Obama’s insistence that a sequester delay plan include tax revenues.
“Remember, the White House said they won’t accept any sequester replacement that that doesn’t include even more taxes,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in an email. “Sen. Reid is rejecting that ransom and making clear that Democrats in the Senate are willing to replace the spending cuts in the sequester with other spending cuts.”
Meanwhile, Ryan’s spokesman William Allison disputed the contention that the House budget chief’s blueprints rely on war savings. “Senator Reid is absolutely incorrect,” he said in an email. “Not a single penny of claimed spending reductions in any of the recent budgets put forward by House Republicans come from this gimmick.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially suggested that Congress pass a bill that would use savings from ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to pay for a fuller replacement of this year’s portion of the sequester ($85 billion). But Republicans rejected that approach.
Let's Recap! On Tuesday Reid floats a possible bill to end the sequester for all programs for 5 months using the FAA cuts delaying flights as leverage. On Wednesday the Republicans push back saying no deal. On Thursday Reid caves and gives the Republicans the FAA only bill they wanted allowing the FAA to shift their cuts and end flight delays.
Thanks Harry! Way to negotiate! If you keep caving on these sequester battles allowing Republicans to restore the funding for only the programs they like (those effecting the upper class), you will not have any leverage left to end the cuts for the programs Dems. are supposed to care about (those for the poor and middle class).
Well, now that we've got that off our chests, do you feel better? I don't!