Lawmakers joust as budget sequester looms

As the federal budget sequester looms with potentially dire consequences for California and the Bay Area, local House members are continuing to sound the alarm.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, today cited the White House’s assessment of the sequester’s impact on California:

“The report today details the harm that these automatic cuts pose to our fragile economy and to the safety and security of families here in California. There is no need for these painful and indiscriminate cuts. That is why I have joined with my colleagues to call on the House Republican leadership to do what is right for our nation by averting these damaging and mindless spending cuts.

“With every passing day, thousands of jobs are at risk, the security of poor, working poor, and middle class families hang in the balance. Our nation’s economy cannot afford any further uncertainty, obstruction, and delay. Too much is at stake.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“We are witnessing the result of an abject failure in leadership by Republican Speaker Boehner and his Tea Party team in Washington. Let’s not forget, they brought us to this point by fabricating a financial crisis and refusing to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, which resulted in the first U.S. credit downgrade in our history. Now, by refusing to ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay a little more and by blocking any alternative to the sequester, they are bringing down a meat cleaver on American jobs and the economy.

“They’ve wasted months by not coming to the table with balanced plan to reduce the deficit and grow the economy while avoiding these indiscriminate cuts. Congressional Republicans would rather gamble — again — on inaction and blame the President than do what’s right for our economy, our country’s safety and the security of working and middle class families. This is not leadership befitting the party that controls the U.S. House of Representatives. We can and should pass a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and grow the economy this week rather than create another avoidable crisis that will hurt millions of families across the country.”

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had this to say at a news conference today:

“You know, the president proposed the sequester, yet he’s far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging his Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan.

“Listen, we know there are smarter ways to cut spending and to continue to grow our economy. That’s why Republicans have acted twice, as Cathy said, to replace the sequester with what we would argue are smarter cuts.

“Listen, the president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester. Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.

“Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems. The House has acted twice, we shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.”

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, weighed in with these remarks on the House floor today:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong disappointment that the House Republican Leadership is committing such legislative malpractice by failing to do anything about the automatic spending cuts that will happen this Friday.

“Here we are, on the brink of another economic crisis manufactured by Washington. And, just as before, this crisis will have real consequences, to real people.

“In my district alone, schools will lose $11 million in federal funding. California will be losing $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary schools. That means fewer students learning and more teachers out of work.

“There’s a rational way to approach balancing the people’s budget, and this is not it. And, we can cut foolish spending without foolishly cutting spending.

“H.R. 699, of which I’m a cosponsor, would replace this method of budgeting with a balanced approach. It would include additional revenue from multimillionaires and smart cuts to reduce unnecessary spending.

“We may not agree on the right way to cut spending, but almost everyone agrees using broad, indiscriminate cuts is the wrong way to cut spending. Let’s come together to pass legislation to avert these cuts.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JohnW

    @50 Elwood

    I always enjoy reading her columns. This one kind of bounces around, so I’m not sure what her main point is or which of her comments you’re referring to in your punchline.

    Not sure I agree with her comments about the “toxic” relationship between the media and the administration. Would be interested in what Josh thinks about that.

    Was it better under Nixon? LBJ? Carter? Reagan’s second term during Iran-Contra? Clinton? Bush 43? Maybe during Bush 41. The internet and a bunch of third-rate outlets have changed the dynamics a lot. Much less spontaneity in dealing with the press corps.

  • JohnW

    I like what I read in this Reuters story about a combination of significant entitlement reforms and revenue via tax reform to replace the stupid across the board cuts to Defense and non-defense discretionary spending. But I’ll believe it when I see it.


  • Elwood

    @ 51 & 52

    “As Politico reported, the White House “has, with great success, fudged the facts. The administration has convinced a majority of the country that Republicans are more to blame by emphasizing that Republicans voted for the plan. Which they did – after Obama conceived it.” Ibid

    That would be the lie to which I am referring.

    “But I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    Yup. Me too.

  • JohnW


    Yup, as everybody, including the WH, agrees, Obama wrongly gave Congress “credit” for the sequester idea. Gene Sperling and Jack Lew based the proposal on the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law. That wasn’t the issue in the heated exchange between Sperling and Woodward, but it is a fact. The exchange was a disagreement about “moving the goal post.”

    Debra Saunders notes that Republicans voted for the Sequestration — “after Obama conceived it.” As we all know from biology class, conception normally occurs after somebody gets screwed. Sometimes, the one who initiates the screwing refuses to accept responsibility for the conceiving part. The proposal did not result from immaculate conception.

    For the first time ever, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama agreed to a major deficit reduction plan. They also demanded a symbolic vote on a balanced budget amendment, even though they knew the Senate wouldn’t pass that.

    Obama agreed to immediate spending cuts to achieve part of the deficit reduction target and a Congressional “Super-committee” to decide how to achieve the rest.

    Republicans demanded an enforcement mechanism of compulsory spending cuts if the super-committee failed to agree on something that Congress could pass. Without such a mechanism, the Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling.

    Sequestration was that enforcement mechanism. Requiring a mechanism was the Republicans’ idea (and demand). Can anybody think of something other than sequestration that would have satisfied that demand?

  • Elwood

    Good God, John you’re just parroting the same old crap.

    “Debra Saunders notes that Republicans voted for the Sequestration — “after Obama conceived it.” That quote is directly from Politico, John. Saunders is simply quoting them.

    Even Jay “Baghdad Bob” Carney, Obama’s designated liar, admitted that Obama was lying.

    According to you and the other Obama sycophants it’s all the Republicans’ fault even though it was Obama’s idea. They forced him to suggest the sequester, poor baby!

  • Elwood

    Until a couple of days ago I had never heard of Gene Sperling.

    Now he’s all over the media like horse****.

  • RR senile columnist

    There’s a way to end the budget debate –get behind the man with a big behind, Chris Christie of NJ. Say it loud, I’m fat and I’m proud!

  • RR senile columnist

    Elwood, dig the Designated Liar title. Maybe it should be formalized. It reminds me of the good old days of Watergate, when The Wash. Post’s Hoffman called Ron Ziegler Ron ZigLiar.

  • JohnW

    @55 Elwood

    Back at you. The opening sentence of my post that you responded to agrees that the Sequestration idea came from the WH, not from Congress. And Obama was wrong to say otherwise during the debate with Romney. So, your response is that I’m “parroting the same old crap?”

    But I also tried to provide some context by focusing on the Sequestration proposal itself and why the WH came up with the idea when we were just a few days from the August 2, 2011 debt ceiling deadline. Woodward chose to put all the focus on who proposed the idea, rather than the reasons it got proposed in the first place. In essence, the WH hatched the Sequestration, because they (and the country) had the GOP debt ceiling gun at their heads.

    Boehner wanted to do a short-term debt ceiling increase and then have another hairy debt ceiling deadline and debate in the middle of the 2012 election campaign. Wouldn’t that have been swell! Obama didn’t want that (nor did the American public). Sequestration is what it took to get around that. Don’t believe me? Read the transcript of Boehner’s interview with David Gregory on yesterday’s Meet the Press. Where Boehner says: “Listen, the president demanded it at the 11th hour in July of 2011, when because he didn’t want to be inconvenienced by having another vote on the debt limit before his re-election in 2012.”

    Bohener and Obama twice nearly reached a “grand bargain” that included both taxes and spending cuts, including entitlements. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan blew up the deal, hoping to win the WH and Senate in 2012 and have it their way on cuts. See New Yorker article on interview with Eric Cantor where he agrees with that assessment.


    That led to a “dollar for dollar” (debt limit increase and cuts) proposal that required an enforcement trigger if the cuts didn’t materialize. The automatic cuts, a/k/a Sequestration provided that trigger. And yes, the WH proposed it.

    See link to National Journal “Who birthed the sequester.” Much better background on the subject than Woodward’s book, in my opinion.