Automatic Cuts Are Getting A Big Yawn From Washington
By Lori Montgomery, Published: February 15
As deadlines go, the March 1 sequester lacks punch. Nobody’s taxes will go up; the U.S. Treasury won’t run out of cash. Government offices won’t immediately turn out the lights and lock the doors. No federal worker will be furloughed for at least 30 days.
So Washington felt little need to cancel the Presidents’ Day break. On Friday, President Obama flew to Florida for a long weekend of golf. And Congress left town for nine days, with scant hope of averting deep cuts to the Pentagon and other agencies in the short time remaining when lawmakers return.
Instead of negotiating, party leaders were busy issuing ultimatums and casting blame. Before they left, Senate Democrats unveiled a bill to replace the sequester in part with new taxes on millionaires, which Republicans oppose. And House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed “the sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget in the next 10 years,” an idea Democrats oppose.
Behind the scenes, there was real concern that the cuts eventually would disrupt critical government functions, hamper economic growth and destroy 750,000 jobs. But for now, the sequester is amorphous and slow-moving, and it has emerged as a convenient hill on which to plant a flag and fight the next battle in the ongoing partisan conflict over taxes and spending.