Republicans in Congress may finally have awakened to the reality that their fact-free approach to governing isn’t working.
The cuts required to meet the budget proposed Tuesday by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are so severe and so arbitrary that his own party is rebelling.
On Wednesday, the day after Mr. Ryan put forth his budget, the bill to fund Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, was pulled off the House floor for lack of support. The cuts needed in those areas to reach the targets in the GOP budget were too deep for some lawmakers.
“Sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., House Appropriations Committee chairman, said in a statement released Wednesday.
Mr. Rogers pointed to the fate of the so-called THUD appropriations bill as evidence that the government cannot continue to try to operate on meager funding levels. He disputed claims by other House Republican leaders that the bill was pulled because of scheduling issues ahead of the August recess.
“The bill today reflected the best possible effort, under an open process, to fund programs important to the American people — including our highway, air and rail systems, housing for our poorest families, and improvement to local communities — while also making the deep cuts necessary under the current budget cap,” Mr. Rogers said. “In order to abide by sequestration budget levels, this bill cut $4.4 billion below the current, post-sequestration total to a level below what was approved for these programs in 2006 — over seven years ago.”
A few days earlier, House Republicans failed to produce their Labor, Health and Human Services bill, which required cuts 19 percent below the sequestration levels.
These funding levels were lowered substantially because House Republicans already had passed defense and veterans appropriation bills that were higher than sequestration allowed.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the actual dollars needed to sustain the programs that people want and need aren’t mythical. They’re mathematical. When spending goes up in one area it has to come down in another, even when you’re the guys who print the money.
Mr. Rogers was one of the House Republicans who wanted to spend more on defense than was allowed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the measure that triggered the automatic sequester — cuts of $1.1 trillion between 2013 and 2021.
President Barack Obama’s administration threatened to veto the defense bill, arguing that fewer cuts in military spending would “result in hundreds of thousand of low-income children losing access to Head Start programs, tens of thousands of children with disabilities losing federal funding for their special education teachers and aides, thousands of federal agents who can’t enforce drug laws, combat violent crime or apprehend fugitives, and thousand of scientists without medical grants.”
Maybe that resonated with Mr. Rogers, who is in his 17th term representing a district that is among the poorest in the nation.
Once known as the “Prince of Pork,” Mr. Rogers’ ability to provide goodies for his district lessened with earmark reform. That may account for his recognition of the new reality.
The local effects of sequestration should not be overlooked. In a word: furloughs. The U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis has been mostly closed for criminal matters two days a month since late April. Furloughs have cut deep at Scott Air Force Base. The local FBI office is considering furloughs, as is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Drug Enforcement Administration is making cuts to avoid furloughs.
And then there are the cuts in programs that affect kids and seniors and people with disabilities and scientists and construction workers and the list goes on. Sacrificing all of these people while defense and veterans programs are spared isn’t the solution. Making smart cuts at the same time you’re reforming the tax code might be.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.