Chad’s Morning Brief: The Sequester is Official, Now What? Lawmakers Upset Over Background Checks at the Texas Governor’s Mansion & More
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of March 1, 2013. Give Chad your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am.
1. Hello Sequester (link)
Well it's March 1st and it's about time for those automatic spending cuts to kick in. Better known as the sequester, $85 billion will be cut today. What exactly does that mean to you and me? Depending on who you ask, the cuts are drastic and will hurt millions of people. Or you really won't notice anything at all. Today on the show, Congressman Randy Neugebauer and Senator John Cornyn will both join me to share their thoughts.
FOX News does have one piece of good news about the sequester that maybe we can all agree on.
Amid the doom and gloom over looming budget cuts, some are starting to see a silver lining.
The government might finally be forced to cut the waste, fiscal hawks say, and officials are already beginning to do away with some of the costly trappings of their office. On Thursday, the White House even suggested agency heads cut back on conference spending, a target of congressional ridicule for years.
"Hopefully, we can begin moving in the direction of getting our economy moving by getting control of government overspending and debt," Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, told FoxNews.com Thursday. "This is at least a modest step in that direction."
Barring any shock developments, the sequester will go into effect Friday. The Senate held votes Thursday afternoon on dueling bills to avert the cuts, but both failed. The Republican bill died, garnering just 38 votes; the Democratic proposal garnered 51 votes, but not the 60 necessary to advance. President Obama next will convene a meeting with the top four congressional leaders Friday in Washington, to discuss the way forward -- as the sequester battle now merges with the looming debate over an expiring budget bill.
Few are actually rejoicing over these specific cuts, though Democrats have tried to give that impression about their Republican colleagues.
"There are Republicans dancing in the streets, happy with the thought that sequestration will happen," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., claimed Thursday.
But the fact that Washington has stopped kicking the can on the cuts -- which were enacted in 2011 as part of the debt-ceiling debate and amount to $1 trillion over the next decade -- is seen by many Republicans as a win. Republicans aides claim to have the upper hand going into budget talks since they want the spending reductions.
Neither side wants these specific reductions, which indiscriminately shave budgets across the board and hit the military particularly hard. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he will "do anything" to scratch the defense portion of the sequester. But Republicans say the cuts don't have to be as bad as the administration is making them sound, especially if Congress grants the administration more flexibility. The pressure of the deadline being passed could compel both sides to reach an amicable agreement in the coming weeks that still shaves the deficit.
Already, Washington is starting to show signs of more fiscal discipline.
House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday that he is suspending the use of military aircraft for official travel by House lawmakers.
And Vice President Biden said the sequester made him rethink the military flights he takes to his home state of Delaware. He said Wednesday that he's going to go back to taking the train.
Spending cuts are good. Everything will be okay folks.
2. Dems Angry Over Security (link)
What is it about security that Democrats just don't understand? A group of Texas Democrats are angry because of security policies at the Governor's Mansion. According to the Texas Tribune, the problem was having to undergo a background check.
Outraged members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus left a reception at the Governor’s Mansion this week after facing what they described as heavy-handed and offensive security procedures. One of the lawmakers said he won’t return to the stately residence until the policy is changed.
The complaints came to light Thursday at a House Appropriations Committee hearing, where lawmakers grilled Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw about a policy that requires everyone but Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, to submit to criminal history checks each time they attempt to enter the Governor’s Mansion. The committee scheduled a hearing on Tuesday to hear more testimony on the issue.
“Is this not enough to get into the governor’s mansion?” state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, asked McCraw while holding up his DPS-issued Capitol identification card.
Turner, who served as host of the afternoon reception at the Governor’s Mansion, said Thursday that he and other lawmakers were upset that they had been asked to provide additional information including their driver’s license numbers to allow DPS to perform criminal history checks on them before they could enter the event.
State Reps. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas; Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin; and Harold Dutton, D-Houston, were among those unhappy with the DPS request, according to Murry Matthews, Turner’s legislative aide.
“There was pushback by members the Thursday before the event that they did not feel it necessary to provide the information,” Matthews said.
The request prompted Giddings to not attend the event, Matthews said. Dutton and Dukes arrived at the mansion but left rather than submit to the vetting. Turner said he submitted to the security vetting after arriving at the Mansion on Monday, but did so only because he was the event's host. He said he did not plan to go back to the Governor’s Mansion until the policy was changed.
“If we are coming to the point that the governor’s house is becoming so exclusive and we are trying to mirror what is happening in D.C., then I have a problem with that,” Turner said.
Referring to his official Capitol identification, Turner added, “If this is not good enough to allow me to get into the governor’s house, when for 24 years I’ve gone over there with no problem … then you all can have it to yourself over there.”
This isn't new though. The policy has been in place for a while now.
Despite lawmakers' concerns about having to undergo a backgrond check every time they visit the Governor's Mansion, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the policy is not a new one.
"The security policy at the mansion – which requires a background check for all visitors to the mansion – has been in place for approximately ten years," Vinger wrote in an email. "Texas Department of Public Safety officials will meet with the Governor’s Office tomorrow to discuss this issue."
So we just have more complaining from Democrats over nothing. As someone who recently attended an event at the Governor's Mansion, I can tell you that there is no hassle at all for the background check. You have to handover 2 or 3 things pieces of information and that is it.
3. 170 Million (link)
Math can be hard. It can be really hard when you are trying to scare Americans about the sequester. Yesterday, California Democrat Maxine Waters claimed that the sequester could cost 170 million jobs. Wow. That would be a lot of jobs and devastating for this country. Only 1 problem though, there are only 143 million jobs in the United States.
In a Thursday press conference, California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters warned of job losses totaling 170 million if the sequester goes through. Waters’ warning comes at a time when there are estimated to be between 135 and 143 million jobs in the United States.
The sequester refers to the $85 billion in cuts to the federal government’s discretionary spending set to go into effect on March 1, unless Congress passes some sort of legislation preventing it.
“[Y]esterday we did have Mr. Bernanke in our committee and he came to tell us what he’s doing with quantitative easing, and that is trying to stimulate the economy with the bond purchases that he’s been doing because he’s trying to keep the interest rates low and create jobs — and he said that if sequestration takes place, that’s going to be a great setback,” Waters said. “We don’t need to be having something like sequestration that’s going to cause these job losses — over 170 million jobs that could be lost — and so he made it very clear he’s not opposed to cuts but cuts must be done over a long period of time and in a very planned way rather than this blunt cutting that will be done by sequestration.”
Late yesterday afternoon, Waters' press office figured out that she had "misspoken" and released a statement that said Waters meant to say 170 thousand jobs.
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