The Democrats have lost on sequestration.
That’s the simple reality of Friday’s vote to ease the pain for the Federal Aviation Administration. By assenting to it, Democrats have agreed to sequestration for the foreseeable future.
In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it’s even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It’s worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.The Wall Street Journal reports that the pain has not been that unbearable anyway:
President Barack Obama warned in March that across-the-board budget cuts would lead to significant pay cuts and furloughs for "hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country."
The layoffs finally kicked in this week—most notably at the Federal Aviation Administration, where furloughs of air-traffic controllers led to flight delays—yet many agencies have found ways to make the required savings and have spared government worker paychecks.
Agency chiefs, under pressure from the public and federal-employee unions, have cut travel and contractor spending, trimmed office hours and delayed some furloughs, achieving dramatic reductions from some of the dire predictions officials made earlier this year.
That is in addition to changes made by Congress to give some departments more flexibility in making cuts, or exempting them altogether, including Department of Agriculture food inspectors, Transportation Security Administration officers and prison guards. The moves have delayed the anticipated reckoning for the federal workforce—for this fiscal year, anyway.
"The initial announcements in March were very threatening and damaging, but we've been engaged with these agencies to mitigate the damage to the front-line workforce," said Peter Winch, deputy director of field services and education at the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union.