Interesting tidbit from Bloomberg.
The budget cutbacks – sequester – starting hitting a lot of people last week when the FAA began furloughs of air traffic controllers.
Hundreds of flights were delayed, planes left sitting on the ground, flights cancelled, grumpy passengers.
It was amazing.
Then Congress voted to reverse the automatic cuts that were causing it.
The Internet exploded, with people saying it was appalling for Congress to undo those sequester cuts while leaving in place cuts to such programs as Head Start and Meals on Wheels that affect tens of thousands of poor people.
The obvious conclusion some say is: Congress cares much more about the problems of rich air travelers (who are regular voters) and will act quickly to solve them.
This is entirely valid and correct — but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Congress is on vacation again.
It is the traditional two-week Spring break, although they prefer the word “recess” over “vacation”.
This is because they will be meeting constituents and giving speeches back home.
But their primary job is legislating, and Congress departed Washington with plenty undone.
First, the “sequestration” spending cuts left hanging during the last congressional break are still in place, their impact mounting.
Congress also managed to pass a budget resolution keeping the government open, declaring a temporary cease-fire on budget fights.
That makes time for post-vacation work on gun safety and immigration.
Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised an April vote on a gun-regulation bill that includes a provision on universal background checks.
Loosening immigration laws is an issue with a bit more consensus than guns, but senators left town before drafting legislation.
By the way, the House has been in session just 36 days so far this year, the Senate just 33.
Let’s see what’s been happening with those people you elected to office.
Maybe they decided this sequester thing has gone on far enough.
The House voted to extend spending cuts that went into effect March 1st and keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30th.
The so-called CR (continuing resolution) is to keep the federal government open after current funding runs out on March 27th.
But, it keeps the spending cuts known as the sequester for all federal agencies, while giving the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments more flexibility in setting spending priorities.
The House’s bill caps fiscal 2013 spending at about $984 billion.
That’s roughly $59 billion cut from the previous budget year’s budget, effectively entrenching the sequester for the current fiscal year, and making things tougher for agencies trying to live on the 2012 budget.
So what happens next?
With sequestration (let’s call it budget cuts) chugging along, Congress will be watching the public reaction and how the politicians respond may depend largely on the feedback they receive.
If the American people don’t notice it, it continues.
If they do, this gets resolved.
Here is how the policy and politics of the budget cuts could play out.
If there is an overwhelming number of angry, pissed off Americans that lights up the phones across the Capitol, Congress could be forced to make a genuine attempt at bipartisan negotiations to come to a mutually agreeable solution.
In the finger-pointing over the last few weeks, both sides traded alternatives that they knew would be dead on arrival in the Senate without any effort to work together.
The next obvious point at which lawmakers might revisit sequestration would be when they consider how to keep the federal government-funded past March 27th, when the current continuing resolution expires.
Oops, Congress plans to be adjourned that week, giving them just 2 and a half weeks to figure out a plan.
Days to Armageddon: 2
Progress made: zero.
Negotiations under way: hardly.
We are now two days from the deadline for Congress and the White House to reach a deal to avoid across-the-board cuts that would total $85 billion and be divided equally between defense and domestic programs.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cuts would put 750,000 people out of work.
Both Democrats and Republicans remain in their foxholes making stink-eye at each other.
In one of the most detailed warnings on sequestration, the Federal Aviation Administration says starting in April, air travelers should get ready for delays.
If budget cuts go into effect, 47,000 workers — including air traffic controllers — would be furloughed one day every two weeks.
And 100 air traffic towers would close at small city airports.
Good luck getting out-of-town.