On the defense and homeland security side of the ledger, federal furloughs will mean the equivalent of 1,000 fewer FBI, Border Patrol, and other law enforcement agents on the job at least through Sept. 30. One-third of the nation’s combat air units are grounded.
“Sequestration is a mindless, across-the-board cutting of what we are now recognizing, and the Republicans are recognizing, of something that should not be cut,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California.
Pelosi called out congressional Republicans, asserting it is “ludicrous” that they fail to understand that sequestration is hurting more than their local airports.
“Why don’t you (Republicans) understand that there is a great deal at stake including the efficiency and the safety of our airports but also, again, the education of our children?” she said. “How can we sit there and say, ‘Four million Meals on Wheels for seniors gone? ‘But that’s not important.’ Over 70,000 children off Head Start. ‘But that’s not important.’”
Obama also chimed in, using his weekly radio address to blame congressional Republicans for the “reckless cuts” forced by sequestration and urging lawmakers to work toward “replacing it before it causes further damage.”
Regardless, Obama signed the FAA legislation even through he earlier said he was only interested in a total reworking of the issue.
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, maintained the administration and its Democratic cohorts used the FAA issue to generate opposition to budget cuts.
“The president and his administration traveled the country and tried to stir up anxiety and concern and fear over the imposition of the sequester, warning that the sky would fall like a modern-day ‘Chicken Little,’” Cornyn said. “Well, it’s been almost two months since the sequester took effect and the administration’s claims that the sky would fall have each proven to be false.”
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, accused the White House of intentionally creating a crisis for air travelers.
“They could have cut spending elsewhere,” Shuster said. “They could have taken into account air traffic patterns, and made sure controllers would be in place where they were most needed. Or they could have reached out to Congress and the airlines to have a plan in place ahead of time.”
Instead, he said, the White House imposed furloughs “because there are some in the Obama Administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts and to impose more tax hikes on the American people.”
But Republicans “kept the heat on,” Shuster said. “The pressure worked, and again we’ve seen that when the people speak out, government has an obligation to listen.”