The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 5, 2013

Other Views: America can wait

— Congress has serious, pressing business before it, business that one would assume can’t wait, and most of that business is connected in one way or another with the sequester, the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that Congress enacted in the confident belief they would never come to pass.

They did come to pass and are predictably playing havoc with the budget process.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that further sequestration cuts — such as a $54 billion one scheduled to take effect in January — eventually will reduce the Army and Navy to pre-World War II levels.

Even if the former Republican defense expert is exaggerating, cuts of that size will inevitably affect manpower, training, equipment, logistics — in short, the military’s ability to wage war in the growing number of locations it may have to do so.

The House Republican leadership explained that it couldn’t come to grips with that particular problem until this fall because of its crowded schedule.

Meanwhile, the GOP found itself embarrassed by another awkward impasse that further gummed up the congressional schedule.

The House leadership pulled from the floor a $44.1 billion bill, colloquially known as THUD, to fund the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The sequester cuts, whose broad outlines the GOP had earlier approved, were too steep to get it passed in the Republican-run House.

GOP whip Kevin McCarthy denied it was a lack of votes that got the bill pulled. It was just that “we don’t have enough time.”

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the usually cautious chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has joined what one hopes is a growing number of Republicans opposed to sequestration. “Thus, I believe the House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end,” he said after the bill was pulled.

Further embarrassment awaited the GOP in the Senate, where Republicans blocked a vote on a counterpart transportation and housing bill because, at $54 billion, it was thought too expensive. A lone, brave Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, insisted the bill’s numbers were “not unrealistic.”

But, as House Republican leaders keep insisting, Congress is just too short on time to devise a compromise.

And why, you may well ask, is the House especially so pressed for time? Because its lawmakers took off Friday for a five-week vacation. The vacation schedule, by the way, is drawn up by House Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

— Scripps Howard News Service

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