'Sequester' blues: Morning-after hangover hits Washington
The morning after the 'sequester' spending cuts went into effect, the earth did not stand still nor did Washington come to its collective senses. Next up: How to avoid a government shutdown March 27 when federal spending expires without a continuing resolution.
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So far, there has been no such public outcry backing Obama on closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, despite the “elections have consequences” mantra voiced by Democrats. In truth, Obama has only about a year to get past the sequester battle and gain any momentum for the other things he’d like to do – immigration, gun safety, childhood education, raising the minimum wage. It’s possible that his party’s majority position in the Senate could weaken in the 2014 elections.Skip to next paragraph
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Meanwhile, the impact of the sequester order, which Obama signed shortly before midnight Friday, is unclear although the effects are being forecast by the agencies involved.
Furlough notices are starting to go out to hundreds of thousands of federal workers, including Defense Department civilians, prison guards, airport security officers, and agriculture inspectors. (Uniformed military personnel, the US Postal Service, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are exempt.)
The military’s aerial hotshots – the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels – are canceling air shows. National park hours are likely to be trimmed. State Department cultural programs will be pinched. Grants to states for public schools, Head Start, housing and community development, and environmental cleanup will be cut.
"The cuts required by sequestration will be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions," White House budget official Jeffrey Zients wrote in a letter accompanying the president’s sequester order.
In his radio address Saturday, Obama warned of “a ripple effect across the economy.”
“Businesses will suffer because customers will have less money to spend,” he said. "Many middle-class families will have their lives disrupted in a significant way."
Whether or not that happens remains an open question – especially to Republicans who have downplayed the likely impact of sequestration. In some ways, it’s a matter of “who blinks first.”
But beyond sequestration, another fight looms: the prospect of a government shutdown March 27, when federal spending expires without a continuing resolution. The last time that happened was when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich butted heads in the mid-1990s, and wasn’t that fun?