A Series of Unfortunate Events
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to a plea from a group of sixth graders who had their tour of the presidential residence canceled due to the so-called “sequester” cuts in a press briefing this afternoon. Mr. Carney described the situation as “extremely unfortunate,” but unavoidable due to the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1 after lawmwakers were unable to reach a deficit reduction deal.
“The President and the First Lady have throughout the time that they’ve been here made extraordinary efforts to make this the people’s house, and it is extremely unfortunate that we have a situation like the sequester that compels the kinds of tradeoffs and decisions that this represents,” Mr. Carney said. “The fact is the Secret Service, like other agencies of government, is affected by the sequester. And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours.”
A group of sixth graders from St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa has turned to the internet to save their school trip to the White House. The children were scheduled to tour the White House on March 16, but their visit was cancelled yesterday along with all other tours of the presidential residence due to “staffing reductions” caused by the so-called “sequester” budget cuts that took effect last Friday after lawmakers failed to make a deficit reduction deal. In an effort to muster support and salvage their trip, the school posted a brief video on Facebook featuring a plea from the children.
“The White House is our house, please let us visit!” the sixth graders say in the clip.
Keep Calm and Carry On
At midnight tonight, a bevy of steep spending cuts will hit the federal government unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative deficit-cutting proposal. Although the national media has been relentlessly focused on this deadline, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it will only affect New York City if the so-called “sequestration” continues for a significant length of time.
“It depends on how long,” Mr. Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show with John Gambling. “If it lasts a few weeks, no. If it does, yeah. We get 10 or 12 percent of our budget from the federal government, not all of that is going to be cut back, but there would be effects–not good effects. But in the context of, ‘Is anything going to change tomorrow? Are we going to run out of money tomorrow?’ I’m sure I’ll get that question at the [next] press conference. No.”
With the $85 billion in automatic so-called “sequester” budget cuts set to take affect tomorrow, the National Republican Congressional Committee has released a series of press releases blaming the situation on President Barack Obama’s fondness for “martian menus” and “robotic squirrels.” According to the NRCC, President Obama and House Democrats are more interested in funding wasteful programs and “scaring American families” than protecting the country from the impending, drastic cuts, so they highlighted a series of initiatives, including plans to develop food for astronauts and funding for a “Robosquirrel” used to research rattlesnake behavior. Several versions of the NRCC statement were released pairing President Barack Obama with different Democratic members of Congress.
“Most Americans will never get to order off the ‘Mars Menu’ that their taxpayer dollars are funding, but instead of cutting wasteful programs like that one, President Obama and Jim Himes are allowing cuts to important programs and services,” NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said in the statement targeting Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes. “Rather than trying to scare Americans, Obama and Himes should agree to responsible cuts to wasteful Washington spending.”
Let's Make a Deal
Three members of New York City’s congressional delegation have signed on to a letter vowing not to back any White House bargain to avoid the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have been at an impasse over the cuts with Democrats favoring debt reduction through tax increases and Republicans wanting spending cuts. President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed a desire to make a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline that includes both tax increases and proposals to reduce the costs of social programs. Now, Congressmen Jerry Nadler, Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez have all signed the pledge promising not to back any deal including the compromises being called for by the White House.
“Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the great bedrocks of our middle class society and, together, constitute an essential safety net for millions of Americans,” Mr. Nadler said. “I will fight like hell against any deficit plan that cuts these programs or fails to address our immediate jobs problem. It is unconscionable for Republicans to ask those who can least afford it – seniors, kids, our most vulnerable families – to sacrifice even more and shoulder a disproportionate burden. I do not support anydeal that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.”
Charles in Charge
Earlier today, President Barack Obama held a press conference to decry the upcoming sequestration–steep automatic budget cuts set to occur in just ten days unless a debt deal is reached–as a “meat cleaver” that will cut essential services and harm the military. And in a subsequent MSNBC interview, veteran Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel weighed in on the topic and took his criticism even further, declaring the entire country “is embarrassed by this whole thing.”
“Before it was, ‘Protect the top 1 percent and don’t increase their tax rates.’ Now they’re saying, ‘If anything else is wrong with the tax system, don’t correct it if it means raising revenue,’” Mr. Rangel said, characterizing and dismissing the Republicans’ negotiating position. “That doesn’t make any sense!”
New York City Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was quite pleased with President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night, but she’s not optimistic about Congress heeding the president’s call to to avoid the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” that are scheduled to go into effect March 1.
“I love his speech he came out swinging,” Ms. Maloney told Politicker about the president’s speech last night.