I’m of two minds when it comes to whether Republicans are breaking & beginning to crack when it comes to the debt ceiling and government shutdown issues…on the one hand, given the nature of America’s current 2-party, first-past-the-post electoral system, it might take a whole lot more cracking/breaking for the GOP to split apart. On the other hand, if this quote over at Daily Kos is any indication, that might just be beginning to happen…
Republicans are breaking.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the bedrock of traditional Republicanism, now says that it will get involved in Republican primaries by providing financial support to incumbent Republicans who vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. In other words, if some Republicans act responsibly and then have to face tea party challengers accusing them of being RINOs, the Chamber will have the back of those reasonable Republicans. It’s a civil war within the GOP, folks.
That’s how far off the deep end the tea party and right-wing House Republicans have gone. They’ve lost the Chamber of Commerce. Heads must be exploding in the Bush family compound. A bit more than a dozen House Republicans have already come out in favor of voting for a “clean continuing resolution (CR)” to reopen the government at current funding levels (remember, that means the sequester stays in place, already a Republican victory).(Daily Kos)
Like walkers from AMC’s The Walking Dead, Friday brings a return to the budgetary antics we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years: from the fiscal cliff nightmares to the endless debt ceiling debates, its’ like they can’t kill the zombie sonuvabitch that is the federal budget…every time you think it’s down for good, it gets right back up and threatens the country’s financial health all over again…
Like life in a bad Road Runner cartoon, the United States has survived the New Year’s “fiscal cliff,” double rounds of debt-ceiling roulette and various budget blow-ups over the past two years. Now the threat is $85 billion in indiscriminate spending cuts that would hit most federal programs and fall hardest on the military. Pentagon programs are slated for an 8 percent cut; other agencies would lose 5 percent for the current budget year.
By law, these cuts known as the “sequester” begin unfolding automatically at week’s end unless President Barack Obama and Congress act to stop them. Even after they’ve begun, the cuts still could be halted or reversed through legislation.
Why did Congress and Obama agree to automatic cuts they don’t like? To corner themselves into getting the nation’s deficit under control.(MSN Politics)
Ironically, President Obama, most members of Congress and most economists agree on two things:
- The budget deficit needs to be reduced
- The sequester, though, is the wrong way to do that
Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely, the cuts can’t be that bad…depends on the perspective. If the cuts are short term, the damage to the country’s economy might not be that bad. On the other hand…
It’s unlikely they will be as bad — or at least as immediate — as some overexcited members of the Obama administration have made out. But the cuts have the potential to be significant if the standoff drags on.
Early on, about 2 million long-term unemployed people could see a $30 cut in benefit checks now averaging $300 a week. Federal subsidies for school construction, clean energy and state and local public works projects could be pinched. Low-income pregnant women and new mothers may find it harder to sign up for food aid.
Much depends on how states and communities manage any shortfalls in aid from Washington.
Furloughs of federal employees are for the most part a month or more away. Then, they might have to take up to a day off per week without pay.
That’s when the public could start seeing delays at airports, disruptions in meat inspection, fewer services at national parks and the like.
An impasse lasting into the fall would reach farther, probably shrinking Head Start slots, for example.
Much of the federal budget is off-limits to the automatic cuts. Among exempted programs: Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants and veterans’ programs.
Even so, officials warn of a hollowed-out military capability, compromised border security and spreading deterioration of public services if the sequester continues. It’s “like a rolling ball,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “It keeps growing.”(MSN Politics)
As stated above earlier, this came to pass as a sort of self-inflicted time bomb…remember the debt ceiling crisis of 2011? Well, part of what got out of that kerfuffle was the sequester: automatic spending cuts that would trigger if a long-term deficit/debt reduction plan wasn’t implemented. Guess what happened? Congress and the President couldn’t come to agreement on that long-term plan, so the sequester was set in motion as a last-ditch, force them to do something approach….which is now staring us all in the face like that last walker you couldn’t get rid of soon enough.
So, what will happen? Assuming no deal is reached, the sequester, about $85 billion in cuts for this year, will begin to take effect. Should a deal be reached soon afterward, the damage shouldn’t be too much. But…by March 27th, the federal government will be out of money as the current legislation which provides spending for Washington expires on that day; if there’s no deal by then…all holy hell will likely break loose in D.C. until there is a long-term solution; let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point, though…for all our sakes.
By the end of the week, barring a miracle, around $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts, the sequestration, will take effect, almost assuredly sending the U.S. back into recession after trying to get out of the late-2000’s financial crisis and recession. What will be the effects of the sequestration be?
Well, the Washington Post today released a very detailed chart of how the sequestration cuts will affect every state and seemingly every sector of the country, from education to science to medicine to national defense; it is a chilling look at how sequestration, which was meant to force legislators into agreeing to long-term deficit reduction, have effectively backed themselves into a bad, bad fiscal situation…another legacy of the fiscal cliff, unfortunately.
There’s a great analysis over at Think Progress of some of the possibilities that could occur if the coming sequester of automatic budget cuts are allowed to take place beginning on March 1st…now, the reason the sequester was agreed to last year was to try to force Congressional lawmakers into reaching some sort of long-term deal to reduce the country’s deficit and begin reining in the country’s debt. If the sequester cuts take place, here are 5 ways they could adversely affect the health of Americans….
- Americans could face an increased risk of foodborne illnesses
- Researchers would be forced to delay life-saving treatment research
- Fewer Americans would be able to receive health coverage under Obamacare
- Americans with mental health problems could receive less treatment
- Fewer Americans would be screened and tested for HIV
Considering all that could happen if the sequester takes effect, let’s hope Congress somehow comes to their senses and doesn’t let the automatic cuts contained within the sequester take effect…
Over at the Washington Post, there’s an excellent WonkBlog article by Ezra Klein concerning the coming dates of importance over the next few months in terms of the federal budget…here’s the timeline in brief:
- February 4: White House releases federal budget plan
- March 1: Fiscal cliff sequestration takes effect unless delayed by Congress
- March 27: Date by which a new continuing resolution must be passed by Congress
- April 15: Congress must adopt a budgetary resolution by this date
- May 27: 90-day debt ceiling increase expires; Congress must vote for new debt ceiling
Talk about walking through minefields…judging by the dates above, it looks as though we’ll be walking through a few more through the first half of 2013.
Quoting NBC News…
An agreement to stave off the harshest and most immediate consequences of the “fiscal cliff” won approval in the House late Tuesday, paving the way for President Barack Obama’s quick signature.
Following a day of hectic wrangling on Capitol Hill — where the prospects for passing the bipartisan, Senate legislation regarding the fiscal cliff hung in the balance for much of New Year’s Day — the House voted 257 to 157 to pass the belated compromise measure over the objections of many conservative Republicans.
Give them credit for getting it done; the bill will now head to the White House for Obama’s signature and the 112th Congress can finally leave the capitol….looking at the final tally, there were some interesting items of note; again from NBC News…
The House vote laid bare some of the internal ideological divisions to plague the GOP over the past two years. More Republican congressmen (151) voted against the Senate bill than for it (85), meaning that Democrats’ support was needed to advance the final deal. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, took the rare step of casting a vote, and did so in favor of the legislation. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the former Republican vice presidential nominee, also supported the package. But Boehner’s top two lieutenants, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., each opposed the deal.
Give Boehner some credit on this one; with the ideological splits in the GOP leadership, Boehner sucked it up and pushed the fiscal cliff deal through, once and for all ending the Hastert Rule provision that Republicans had used on legislation in the past to stymie Democratic efforts in the past. Considering that both Cantor and McCarthy crossed swords with Boehner, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens Thursday when the 113th Congress convenes and the Republican Conference meets to pick its’ leaders for the next 2 years.