As the budget sequester begins to take effect, it appears that some of its biggest cheerleaders are suddenly losing their stomach for austerity.
On Tuesday night, the White House announced that all public tours would be canceled effective Saturday, due to staffing reductions in the Secret Service caused by sequestration. Several Republican congressmen — many of whom had previously dismissed the impact of the sequester — immediately reacted with indignation.
Days before the cuts were scheduled to take effect, Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) wrote that “the hysteria in Washington over sequestration is both strange and amusing,” referring to the cuts as a “mini-diet” that only “shaves a tiny portion off the federal budget.” After the cancellation of White House tours, however, Graves took a sharply different tone.
“Canceling all self-guided White House tours is the latest shameless political stunt by the president, who is twisting basic government efficiency into an extreme consequence,” he told Roll Call. “As the White House doors are slammed in the face of average Americans, I want to know if they will still swing wide open for Hollywood and the liberal elite.”
Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), who recently hinted that she has no sympathy for those pleading to be spared from further budget cuts, released a statement saying “I believe closing the doors of the White House to the American people is wrong.”
Similarly, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) raged to Roll Call: “It’s the old, ‘If you don’t [approve] this bond levy for the school district, we’re going to eliminate football…I understand the strategy of the administration: They’re trying to make it as ugly as possible to put as much pressure as possible on Republicans to change their position. It’s just not going to happen.”
Additionally, pertpetually crazy Texas representative Louie Gohmert — who had previously dismissed the sequester as a “tantrum demanding more money for government” — responded to the news by introducing legislation seeking to block President Obama from playing golf until White House tours are reinstated.
These House Republicans’ outrage is strikingly hypocritical, given their shared responsibility for the budget cuts that forced the tour cancellations. Their total refusal to even consider a deal including new tax revenues made avoiding sequesration impossible.
Furthermore, their stunned reaction to the cancellation of White House tours severely undercuts the GOP’s position that spending cuts will have barely any noticeable affect on Americans’ day-to-day lives. If these congressmen consider the cancellation of White House tours to be an “extreme consequence,” one wonders how they’ll describe the severe cuts to unemployment benefits, veterans benefits, educational programs, and other targets of sequestration.
A recent Pew poll found that, despite their enthusiasm for generic deficit reduction, Americans oppose almost every possible specific spending cut. So as the cuts begin to impact programs that matter far more to the average voter than White House tours, expect to see a lot more congressmen suddenly becoming much less comfortable with slashing the budget.