LaHood Cries Sequester; McCain's Benghazi Appetite In Insatiable

The Atlantic

Outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood played the role of town criar warning the peasants of the coming sequester cuts on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday. LaHood rang his bell and warned of the 4 percent reduction coming to his old department that would spell layoffs for federal employees. Oh, and also, it will make flying even worse. "In the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers, and that then will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports," LaHood said. He said they're already looking at where they can possibly make cuts if a deal isn't reached. "This sequester is very serious business, and it requires us to make the reductions that we're making," LaHood said. "It requires us as painful as it is to furlough the people that we're going to have to furlough.  And we're taking it very seriously." But just because the Transportation Department is getting prepared and LaHood is playing Paul Revere doesn't mean he doesn't think a deal is off the table. Far from it. LaHood still thinks there's time on the clock for Republicans a Democrats to get together and get a deal done. (Oh, good, another last minute deal, said everyone still suffering from fiscal cliff flashbacks.) On NBC's Meet the Press, LaHood seemed optimistic this might happen. "If Republicans and Democrats get together this week and take a look at the president's plan, which he put on the table to save $85 billion, this does not have to happen," LaHood said "There is still time to reach a compromise." LaHood really believes in the possibility of a deal getting done. "I hope so. I do. It's been done before. It was done at the 11th hour to save us from going under the fiscal cliff. It can be done again. And it can be done by Friday."

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One person who doesn't think the sequester is that big of a deal is Sen. Tom Coburn. On Fox News Sunday, Coburn said he feels the administration is "absolutely" exaggerating the sequester's potential effects. If anything, he feels the cuts should happen. "There’s easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel... not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country," Coburn said.

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Sen. John McCain said he expects Chuck Hagel to finally be confirmed as Defense Secretary this week on CNN's State of the Union. "The president deserves an up-or-down-vote," McCain said. "Now Democrats will say, 'We've never done that before, well they have, and they did with [John] Bolton and John Tower and others. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't give Chuck Hagel an up-or-down vote, and we should." Then McCain gave his passive aggressive outlook on the chances that Hagel actually gets positively voted through when the vote does happen. "I think it will happen, barring some additional revelation concerning his comments about Israel and all those other unfortunate things he's said in the past." The topic eventually switched over to the President's other pending national security nomination, CIA nominee John Brennan. On that, McCain thinks Republicans may try and delay it for more Benghazi answers just like they did to Hagel. "Look, I don't want to put a hold on anybody. But the American people deserve answers about Benghazi. There are so many questions that are still out there, including what was the president doing the night Benghazi happened?" McCain said. Translation: Look, I don't want to do this thing, but I'm totally going to do this thing because it worked the last time. "He needs to answer these questions. And they say, why now? It's the only time we have maximum leverage -- that's just a fact of life around Washington," McCain said. McCain also wants Brennan to address the waterboarding answer he gave in his first hearing again. "Mr. Brennan said that he was opposed to waterboarding and torture, but at the same time he said it had saved lives," McCain said. "I'd like to know what lives were saved, because the information I have is it saved no one's life. There's a lot of misinformation."

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Sen. Claire McCaskill thinks it's pretty gross how some people dragged Chuck Hagel's name through the mud during his confirmation process. On Fox News Sunday, she acknowledged that Hagel didn't do well in his hearing, but argued there's been enough belly aching and he should be allowed to do his job already. "Did [Hagel] have the best day that day? Of course not," McCaskill said. "But having said that, he’s qualified [and] I think it’s despicable the way his character has been impugned by other people." She thinks it's about time Hagel be confirmed. "It’s time for us to come together and unite behind him so he can do the best job possible," McCaskill said. 

Rep. Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and also a Republican. He's not excited about this sequester business, not one bit, for it means bad things for the Defense departement. On ABC's This Week, Rogers argued for some flexibility to allow departments to try and lighten the blow should the sequester axe fall. "There will be an impact on national security, there's no doubt," Rogers said. "So it's really only 2 cents on the dollar over the whole federal budget, but they've scrunched that down into seven months and highlighted, or at least put most of the burden, on the Defense Department. So that is going to have an impact."

Sen. Patrick Leahy said the Senate will eventually have some kind of gun bill passed on State of the Union. "I think we will," the Vermont Democrat said. But it's going to have to require some team work, something the Senate and the House haven't received very much praise for recently. "I don't want it to be a partisan bill -- I'm working with both Republicans and Democrats," he said. "Unless we work with both Republicans and Democrats, we'll pass nothing." But Leahy implied Republicans are holding out for new border security measures before a gun legislation will ever pass, something he thinks they need to give up on. "If you say there must be total [border] security before we can move forward, that's never going to happen," Leahy said. "This administration, the Obama administration, spent more on border security than any administration in history - there are still going to be some people getting through."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan attacked lawmakers for the never-ending fiscal game that's putting pressure on school districts to constantly expects cuts in federal spending and leading to teachers losing their jobs on CBS' Face the Nation. "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall," Duncan said. Some school districts are already laying people off because they expect Congress and the Senate to let the sequester happen, which would cut federal funding. These are teachers. Won't someone think of the children? "We don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is," Duncan said. "It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need, and as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs." What's at the forefront of Duncan's argument is that avoiding the sequester shouldn't be this hard. "The fact that this is so easily avoidable is why I'm so angry," he said. "If folks would just work together, compromise, find the middle ground, we wouldn't put districts and families and children through this much trauma. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever." Duncan said the inability for Republicans and Democrats to work together is the root of his anger. "Sequester was set up to be painful to everybody, recognizing the dysfunction of Congress, to be so painful it would force people to come to the table," Duncan said. "And the fact that people in Congress are so tone-deaf to what's really going on in their districts ... that to me is unimaginable."

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