As travelers across the country began feeling the consequences of sequester cuts at airports this week, legislators were busy determining who to blame for the increase in disrupted travel. From the beginning Democrats have been consistent in their message—”the sequester will hurt Americans, instead we need a combination of responsible cuts and significant revenue.”
The Republican response to the sequester, on the other hand, has been divided and unclear. Before the cuts materialized, some Republicans were charging Democrats with being “dramatic,” some even welcoming the cuts. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “It is going to happen. It is 2.4 percent of the budget, and it is not the end of the world. We want the savings. We want to bank those savings, and we want to move on.” Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) echoed those same sentiments: “We had a grand total of three phone calls concerned about it. They don’t buy the scare tactics. Most Americans are going to wake up Friday morning and yawn.”
Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) blamed President Obama for the effects of the sequester, admitted the president never wanted the sequester to happen, and then half-embraced the imminent cuts. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said, “We support replacing the indiscriminate cuts in the sequester with smarter cuts and reforms (of an equal amount).”
Others like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) didn’t find the cuts to be deep enough. “Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating. Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess,” Paul said in his Tea Party response to the State of the Union.
Now that the cuts have taken place and public outrage over delayed and canceled air travel has increased, Republicans have adopted a new argument—”why didn’t anyone tell us the cuts would be this bad?” In a House Committee on Appropriations hearing, Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) blamed Federal Aviation Administration Chief Michael Huerta: “You didn’t forewarn us that this was coming; you didn’t ask advice about how we should handle it.”
Republicans have evolved full circle on this issue—from criticizing President Obama, to claiming victory for the cuts, to now indicating they had no idea the cuts would be so severe. White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to these claims on Monday. “We made it clear that there would be these kinds of negative effects if Congress failed to take reasonable action to avert the sequester,” he said. “Policy that everyone who was involved in writing it knew at the time and has made clear ever since was never designed to be implemented. It was designed to be bad policy and, therefore, to be avoided.”
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite