It could have been a powerful tool. Obama blew it and blew it big. The real answer was simple.
The idea of the sequester came from the White House:
“In 2011, President Obama proposed the devastating sequestration cuts and stood by them. Now the Democrats continue saying Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, showing just out of touch the Democrats are with the American people. House Republicans have passed two bills that provide common-sense solutions that would reduce spending and preserve and strengthen our safety net for future generations. Instead of admitting we have a problem, Obama and the Democrats would rather find more tax increases. Our nation’s problem is spending and it’s time the president realizes that.”
It was designed to cause maximum pain to the public:
The Washington Examiner reported Monday, “it is in the political interest of a president to inflict maximum pain on the American people.”
“Now facing the consequences” of the automatic spending cuts his administration’s sequester cuts will inflict upon Americans – and frustrated by Republican successes in blocking his effort to raise taxes and pass gun-control measures – The Washington Post reported Sunday that Obama is now “focused” on winning back control of the House to “forward” his agenda, “which he and his advisers believe will be crucial to the outcome of his second term and to his legacy as president.”
The worst case scenario for Washington was for a sequester to occur and no one to give a damn:
Three out of 4 Americans say they aren’t following the spending cuts issue very closely, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this week. It’s a significant drop from the nearly 4 in 10 who in December said they were closely following the fiscal-cliff debate.
Public data from Google’s search engine shows that at its peak in December, the search term “fiscal cliff” was about 10 times as popular as “sequestration” has been in recent days. Even “debt ceiling,” not a huge thriller for the web-surfing crowd, maxed out in July 2011 at about three times the searches the sequester is now getting.
“We’re now approaching the next alleged deadline of doom. And voters, having been told previously that the world might end, found it did not in the past and are becoming more skeptical that it will in the future,” said Peter Brown of the nonpartisan Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Oh sure, some were put off with the termination of the White House tours, but that was about it.
Thing is, there was a way that this sequester could have been designed to maximize the effect: design it to inconvenience Congress. Congress doesn’t care about White House tours. There’s a whole list of things Congress really doesn’t care about here. What does Congress care about?
Congressmen fly home for the weekends and holidays. One thing they can’t stand is being inconvenienced. And flight delays are a major inconvenience. So they fixed it.
The Senate moved quickly Thursday evening to help ease the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to handle automatic spending cuts set forth in the sequester.
Senators unanimously approved the “Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013″ — a patch to fix the deep cuts that have furloughed air traffic controllers and delayed flights across the country.
The bill gives the FAA authority to spend up to $253 million of money already in the FAA’s budget — but not allocated to pay for other things — to keep employees on the job and make sure more flights a on time.
It was passed by unanimous consent, which means no senator objected.
The House could take the bill up tomorrow and pass it with 2/3 support of that chamber.
All of this was a last minute scramble to avert a crisis that was becoming more and more politically problematic by the day.
The rush was inspired by the looming congressional recess, which lasts all next week. Many senators are leaving were set to leave town Thursday night and Friday.
The House passed similar legislation.
Barack Obama and his personal Ewok Gene Sperling could not have been more misdirected. They wasted countless hours constructing a program to maximize the hurt on citizens when all they had to was put the hurt on Congress.
Too soon old, too late smart.