Will Sequestration Really Be That Bad? (With CBS News Video)
In addition to forcing reductions of 13 percent for defense programs and 9 percent for other programs, the White House Budget Office reports sequestration would also mean, among other things, reduced unemployment benefits for over 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer; 70,000 Head Start students removed from the pre-kindergarten program; layoffs of 10,000 teachers and other school staffers; and fewer border security agents and facilities for detained illegal immigrants.
Flanked by first responders Tuesday, the president also listed them among the hundreds of thousands of Americans that could join the unemployment rolls if the sequester goes into effect.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., countered with a statement: "Surely the President won't cut funds to first responders when just last year Washington handed out an estimated $115 billion in payments to individuals who weren't even eligible to receive them, or at a time when 11 different government agencies are funding 90 different green energy programs. That would be a terrible and entirely unnecessary choice by a president who claims to want bipartisan reform."
With such repercussions on the line, Washington Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson guessed on Sunday's "Face the Nation" that with the heat turned up after March 1, Congress will ultimately be motivated to deal with the harmful sequester cuts as it debates the subsequent fiscal crisis postponed by Washington: The continuing resolution (CR) of 2013, which, as a stopgap, has only set funding for the federal government until March 27 instead of through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Congress must extend the CR by March 27 or else it risks completely shutting down the government.
The sequester is "going to have the serious consequence for a lot of people, but it's not like shutting down the government," Gerson said. "And there are some expectations that maybe this issue could be rolled into... the continuing resolution debate in March, and you might get some resolution."
But a new month and a new fiscal fight do not assure new collaboration. In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Obama implored Republicans to work with him to negotiate a "balanced" package, but stipulated he will "not sign a plan that harms the middle class." The president and his advisers have been calling for a proposal that reaches the magic $4 trillion mark economists have said will stabilize the country's debt crisis, through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases. Republicans say it's a non-starter.
"Once again, the president offered no credible plan that can pass Congress -- only more calls for higher taxes," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement following the Mr. Obama's remarks. "Just last month, the president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he's already back for more. The American people understand that the revenue debate is now closed. We should close loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code, but that revenue should be used to lower rates across the board. Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America. It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending."