“In the essential services, I’m going to tell them I did everything I could possible do to see that the border security guard, the air traffic controller, the food safety inspector had a chance to show up,” he said. Those people still have to come to work in the event of a full-blown government shutdown, he noted, and so there should be a way to keep them on the job despite the sequester. Blunt has offered legislation to give the administration more flexibility in administering the across-the-board cuts, particularly when it comes to food safety inspectors.
House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who has been railing against the sequester since its inception, said folks back home know his position.
“The only thing they’re saying is ‘keep it up,’” he said of his fight to end the “terrible and lousy” sequester, as he put it. He also said it will force the military to rewrite its strategy to reflect the cuts.
McKeon said he will tell his constituents that the CR will make things a little bit better and that the House budget blueprint would add money back to Defense.
As for the White House’s hope that Republicans might at some point trade revenue to avoid the sequester, a frustrated McKeon simply dismisses the idea as “crazy.”
That’s how many other House Republicans feel.
“They think I’m going to raise taxes over $85 billion in cuts? That was never going to happen,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. “Maybe they thought we were so wimpy we would roll.”
Indeed, administration officials had hoped for a cave that never came.
Shimkus said he’s not getting calls about the sequester. “I was at two dinners over the weekend. I asked large groups who felt the impact; not a single hand was raised,” he said. “It’s pretty quiet.”
Shimkus said he thinks the White House has been embarrassed by the blowback to its beating the drums on the sequester before March 1. “It didn’t work,” he said. And, “until we get our entitlement programs under control, expect this to continue.”
Shimkus said he is keeping his eye on the long lines at the airport amid cutbacks at the TSA. He’s showing up earlier to make sure he makes his flight.
Republican leaders also have armed their members with a full slate of talking points should they be challenged on the stump, House and Senate GOP aides noted. Among the points are that the idea originated in the White House, that Republicans have repeatedly proposed alternative cuts and that Republicans have offered the president flexibility to make them in a more thoughtful way, only to be rebuffed by Democrats and the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.