U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is not known as a flamethrower. He’s known to choose his words carefully.
But he opened up earlier this week in a way that suggested he was less supportive of sequestration than the conservative bloc in the House would like. In comments Wednesday after House leaders pulled a $44.1 billion bill for lack of support, Rep. Rogers issued a statement saying, “Sequestration — and its unrealistic discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”
As for the bill that occasioned his comments, it “… reflected the best possible effort, under an open process, to fund programs important to the American people — including our highways, air and rail systems, housing for our poorest families and improvements to local communities — while also making the deep cuts necessary under the current budget cap. In order to abide by the sequestration budget levels, this bill cut $4.4 billion below the current, post-sequestration total to a level below what was approved for these programs in 2006 — over seven years ago.”
Rep. Rogers’ candor is refreshing. Additional evidence of the harm the sequester is doing came from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He warned this week that further sequestration cuts would cut the strength of the Army and Navy to levels not seen since before World War II. His immediate concern is the $54 billion cut scheduled to take effect in January.
House Speaker John Boehner, however, stood fast against compromise and put the entire responsibility for the sequester and its draconian cuts in the lap of President Barack Obama.
“Sequestration is going to remain in effect until the president agrees to cuts and reforms that will allow us to remove it. The president insisted on the sequester none of us wanted. None of us like it. There are smarter ways to cut spending.”
That there are, and there are smarter ways to govern, including working through the August recess because of the mountain of work members of both parties and both chambers seem disinclined to deal with.
Rep. Boehner’s rhetoric won’t bring an end to this harmful sequester any closer. That’s particularly disappointing given that he and President Obama worked well together on the so-called “grand bargain.” Rep. Boehner abandoned it because fellow Republicans wanted no part of a compromise with the president.
Given the toll the drastic sequester’s cuts are taking, we hope Rep. Boehner and others take Rep. Rogers’ words to heart and do what it takes to end the bipartisan folly. Because Rep. Rogers is right: “Sequestration — and its unrealistic discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”