Despite the president’s “Sequestration Is Armaggedon” road show, Republican members of Congress seem uniformly unflapped by the impending automatic budget cuts.
“It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury and signifying nothing!” Representative Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.) tells National Review Online with a laugh. “I’m not a great Shakespeare fan, but it fits now here. And I really think most Americans will wake up on Friday morning and say, ‘Come on, what was it all about?’”
Huelskamp adds that he’d prefer to hold off sequestration and make minor reductions in spending, but that the impending cuts aren’t nearly large enough to warrant the paranoia that the president has been peddling.
Luke Messers, a freshman congressman from Indiana, feels the same way. “I think it is remarkable that the president argues that, if he doesn’t get a second tax increase in eight weeks, the sky will fall and the world will end as we know it,” he says.
Representative Steve Stockman (R., Texas) says that the president’s management of the situation will probably hurt his credibility. “Once it passes and the next day the sun comes up and people still have water and they still have children, it’s going to be an interesting take,” he explains.
He jokes that the FDA might as well be threatening to cut Vitamins A through D, and that one could make a bumper stick pushing for alternative cuts that said, “Fire a Bureaucrat, Save a Child.”
Messers and Huelskamp both say they suspect that the president has chosen to support cuts that will grab the most headlines instead of looking for simpler, less dramatic ways to reduce the deficit. Huelskamp points out that in 2011, the federal government made $115 billion in improper payments — cut just two-thirds of that waste, and you’ve just taken care of the sequester, he argues. The Kansan adds that he has trouble weeping salt tears over cuts when every agency’s budget will still be bigger after sequester than when the president took office. Stockman’s office also came up with less incendiary ways to trim the deficit, labeling the proposal the “Stockman Smartquester.”
It’s not just the conservative rank-and-file who are simultaneously downplaying the sequester and presenting alternatives. At a press conference on Tuesday morning, House speaker John Boehner told reporters that the House has already moved two bills that would avert the consequences of the automatic cuts, and it’s the higher chamber’s turn to have a go at it. “We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their a** and begins to do something,” he said.
Representative Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.) says the president’s PR campaign stands in stark relief to his predecessor’s nationwide tours.
“I was just thinking about when President Bush went out across the country, he was usually promoting a concept or an idea that would be put into legislation,” Stutzman explains to National Review Online, “whereas this president, as he goes across the country, he’s usually running these rallies that are full of fear and scare tactics, and I think the American people are going to catch up with that.”
Representative Steve Womack (R., Ark.) tells NRO that the president’s insistence on another tax hike seems futile and misguided, and that Americans will realize the folly of his warnings.
“It’s kind of like Groundhog Day,” he says.