McClintock: GOP winning sequestration debate, but losing spending fight

Tim Cavanaugh Contributor
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Republicans are missing an important opportunity to capitalize on the fizzling panic over sequestration, a leading GOP congressman told The Daily Caller.

Commentators on the left and the right agree that President Barack Obama and legislative Democrats overstated the potential negative effects of the mandatory reduction in spending increases that kicked in at the beginning of this month.

But California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, a member of the House budget committee, says the approval of the continuing resolution on the budget this week deferred Republicans’ ability to make serious spending reductions until at least this fall.

“The CR prevents the House from using its appropriations power to effect spending reforms until September 30,” McClintock told TheDC. “Obviously the battle can be fought on appropriations as of October 1. But this effectively postponed the House’s power until then.”

McClintock said Obama “jumped the shark” by trying to incite sequestration panic, noting that the administration has botched its efforts at image management since the March 1 onset of the across-the-board spending cuts.

Obama’s announcement that the White House would be closed to tours incited a continuing discussion about whether the administration is seeking to make the sequester reductions as visibly painful as possible. The revelation of a memo from a federal agency warning employees against “contradicting what we said the impact would be” suggested Democrats knowingly exaggerated sequestration’s impact.

And earlier this week, Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid was forced into an embarrassing retreat after he suggested sequestration connected to training exercises like the one that killed seven Marines Silver State. (RELATED VIDEO: Reid ties budget cuts to soldiers’ deaths)

“The key moment was the suspension of White House tours, which cost about $18,000 a week to maintain,” McClintock said. “Now, $18,000 is what Air Force One burns every six minutes. Which would you choose if you were president, to close White House to school children or reduce your usage of Air Force One for six minutes a week? I know what I would choose.”

McClintock has long argued that sequestration, for all its flaws, was the least-bad feasible option for beginning to get federal spending under control. But others are also coming around to the view that, at least, the mandated reductions have been less damaging than advertised.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote this week that it is “very unlikely” that progressives will get their preferred endgame.

“As the sequester grows increasingly unpopular, Obama and Dems rally public opinion to force Republicans to replace it with a deal that combines new revenues with judicious spending cuts that don’t hit entitlement benefits. I’m just not seeing any way this happens,” Sargent wrote.

And after the failure of a Senate bill to restart White House tours, Republican Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn released a list of seemingly frivolous federal spending that has not been cut amid the sequester brouhaha. (RELATED: Lawmakers reject plan to reopen tours)

McClintock added that  Washington is missing a chance to make a serious dent in federal spending, which has increased by 64 percent over the past 10 years. The sequester reductions, he noted, are a tiny fraction of the necessary spending cuts.

“You’ve got to remember something,” McClintock said. “Sequestration doesn’t actually cut spending. It merely slows the rate of increase, and not by much. That this administration says it can’t handle such a modest reduction is a pretty stunning indictment of their judgment and their competence.”

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