Don't furlough me, bro:
More than three dozen federal workers picketed outside the Bolling Federal Building in Kansas City Wednesday, calling for an end to the automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration. “Sequestration stinks,” one protest sign said. The automatic sequester cuts went into effect earlier this month. They require tens of thousands of federal workers to take unpaid furloughs, and many workers are now being notified of their furlough schedule. Most furloughs won’t take effect until April. “Federal employees are hard-working Americans just like everyone else,” said a statement from Shannon McPeek, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1336. “Less money in their pockets means less money to spend locally on food, clothing, and other goods and services.” The demonstration was part of a national day of protest by federal workers and labor leaders.
"Sequestration stinks"? Hey, blame the president -- it was his idea, and he rejected every realistic option to replace it. This wasn't just a Kansas City event, incidentally; Buzzfeed compiled a highlight reel of news coverage from around the country yesterday, as federal workers took to the streets to vent about the brutal, across-the-board "cuts" that reduced overall spending by...less than two percent. They were wasting their breath anyway; the Democrat-held Senate passed their version of the House's CR earlier this week, thus solidifying the sequester-induced lower spending baseline for the remainder of the year. Sorry, bureaucrats, those slightly lowered outlays are here to stay -- at least for the rest of 2013. (Senate Democrats undo the last nine years of sequestration in their new budget, replacing the cuts with hundreds of billions in tax increases and double counting the "savings" while they're at it). The president is expected to sign the funding measure, although he'll undoubtedly use the occasion to grouse about the built-in sequester cuts that, er, he proposed.
In any case, "sequester stinks" just ain't going to cut it in terms of breaking through to the public. To accomplish that, you really need to exaggerate job losses, lie about pink slips and pay cuts, invent scary stories about denied healthcare services for little kids, needlessly shut off popular Washington frills, set criminals free, and -- if you're really soulless -- exploit accidental troop deaths to really make your point. Speaking of the penultimate item on that laundry list, Sen. Jon Cornyn is demanding that Congress investigate the Department of Homeland Security's decision to release thousands of detained illegal immigrants, including some aggravated felons. DHS officials' excuses have ranged from incoherent to implausible, and Cornyn wants a deeper probe. Here's a portion of a letter the Texas Republican send to New York Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer:
I am writing to request that the Subcommittee conduct full oversight of the recent United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency decision to release 2,228 persons from immigration detention, hundreds into Texas, for no legitimate reason. These actions, made at the direction of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership, call into question the Department’s commitment to its core national security missions and raise serious concerns about the judgment of high-level DHS officials. As the Subcommittee with oversight responsibility for the Department of Homeland Security, I believe that it is our duty to hold hearings on this matter in the next month. Though multiple members of Congress and state governors have requested detailed information about these DHS actions, we have yet to receive a response from the Department. What we do know is that at least 700 of these detainees were directly released into Texas. We also know that at least 30 percent of these released detainees had criminal records—potentially including aggravated assault, financial crimes, theft, larceny, drug offenses, drunk-driving, and domestic violence. At least 8-10 of the criminals released by DHS were classified as “Level one offenders”—the most dangerous group of criminals detained by ICE. This is unacceptable. I am also very troubled that senior DHS officials, including ICE Director John Morton, have attempted to downplay the seriousness of releasing more than 600 criminals from their custody and into the general population.
I'm sure Schumer will get right on that. Yesterday's protests and Democrats' histrionics help illustrate why reducing spending is so difficult in this town, even when the public supports the cuts and can smell the scare tactics from a mile away. Hell, even when a government agency wants to shed costs, Congress stands ready to stand in the way.