Many pundits have complained about the fact that Congress has deserted Washington for almost the entire month of August, leaving only a handful of legislative days when members return in which to try to come up with a 2014 budget before the new federal fiscal year commences on October 1. Chances are that won’t be enough time to bridge partisan differences, so we’ll get another continuing resolution that damages military readiness, impairs domestic programs, and further diminishes popular perceptions of the legislative process.
However, there may be one positive aspect to legislators going home for few weeks: they are probably getting an earful on what voters think about sequestration now that it is having an impact on jobs at the district level. It has taken two years for the Budget Control Act of 2011 to begin being felt at the local level, but this is the Summer that sequestration has finally hit home. Contracts are being delayed, workers are being furloughed, and even the dry cleaner across the street from the base entrance is feeling the impact.
So members of Congress are likely absorbing a lot of criticism from their constituents who are hurting, and beginning to contemplate the prospect that local impacts will peak at just about the time next year’s midterm election is held. If I were a Congressman in a marginal district, especially a recently-elected Republican, I’d be starting to worry. It’s one thing to talk about cutting the deficit and not burdening our children with debt; it’s another thing to explain to a voter why that requires that he be out of a job today.
So far this year the federal deficit is way down, and sequestration is only one of several reasons why that’s so. But it is the main reason why federal workers and contractors are losing their jobs in places like Huntsville and Killeen and Norfolk, and the legislators who represent such places are undoubtedly hearing about it this month. Thus if you listen closely, you can probably hear the strains that are beginning to unravel support for sequestration among Republicans. Sequestration sounded great back when it was an abstraction, but now it’s a concrete proposition that is going to hurt pretty much anybody who still backs it.
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