The end of sequestration working day number two has passed. The effects of the mandatory budget cuts are being felt. Fingers are being pointed and blame is being assigned to the opposite party. The country needs some sort of fix to the problem as the small ripples of the damage the sequestration caused have just barely been felt. There was finally a glimmer of hope as the House of Representatives presented a continuing resolution (CR) to soften the blow of sequestration. The resolution will be debated on the House floor tomorrow and put to a vote on Thursday. It looks like some action may finally be overriding the politics. Or is it?
A look at the CR shows that it is heavily concerned with defense spending. It contains a full-year defense appropriations bill as well as a military construction/veterans affairs bill. The Department of Defense was facing an $11 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance funds and the resolution shifts $10.4 billion to that fund. The CR also provides funding for prisons, embassy security, border patrol, and the FBI. In sum, the CR goes to great lengths to try and provide the necessary funding for defense and security agencies. That is not a bad thing.
It is what is not in the CR that is stunning. There is no mention of education funding in the proposal at all. This is not to lessen the importance of defense spending. It is almost incomprehensible; however, that noting is to be done about education if the CR is passed. It is as if the education system does not exist. There will be no change in funding to general education, special education, or Head Start. Schools serving military bases will struggle to make it through the school year. The House of Representatives does not even consider the children and the future of the country in the resolution.
How can a resolution that is supposed to fix, or at least patch, sequestration completely ignore education spending. Unfortunately, the answer to that is easy and summed up in one word: politics. The CR was drafted by Republicans in the House. As such, the resolution pushes some Republican agendas, such as a continuation of the freeze on federal employee’s salaries. This is not to say that the freeze is a bad (or good) thing. It is just that it is a purely Republican initiative since President Obama wants a 0.5% increase for federal employees after March 27th. The bad part, however, is that the CR does not address the Democratic parties initiatives. Unfortunately for everyone, education is a largely Democratic initiative and the Republicans have shown little interest in education funding as shown in the CR.
If there is any question about the power of politics in the formation of the resolution, that can be put to rest by the fact that the CR would keep in place the U.S. Postal Service’s mandate to deliver mail on Saturday. Wait, what? This is a resolution on government spending that includes USPS operations even though that agency is self-funding and has nothing to do with the sequester. This is not meant to be a commentary on USPS or Saturday mail delivery. It is just something that does not belong in the resolution. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sequestration or government spending. It is simply a case of politicians adding personal agendas to important and non-related legislation in an attempt to force it through.
It is amazing that the politicians cannot stop even in the face of harsh reality. This type of political maneuver is what led the country to sequestration in the first place. There are too many special agendas and riders to bills that add to the budget until it has grown unmanageable. Rather than working together to solve the issues, the politicians continue to play partisan politics and force the other party to pass its initiatives or look like the villain. The question is not whether USPS should continue Saturday mail delivery. The question is why this is more important than the thousands of children that will be denied entrance into Head Start because of sequestration, not whether a non-affected agency will change its level of service.
It is time for politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, to check the politics at the door and deal with the issues at hand. The country does not need an answer on Saturday delivery tomorrow. It needs to know that the autistic student will get the education she needs to succeed. It needs to know that all young children will have access to early education. It needs to know that the son of the soldier in Afghanistan will get a proper education while his father risks his life at the government’s orders. In short, the country needs to know that the leaders care. The actions of Congress and President Obama, including the political games that they continue to perpetuate, show that they do not care about the children or the future of the country but rather about saving face and showing up the other party. This country needs its leaders to put aside their petty political gamesmanship and show real leadership. It needs an end to the rhetoric and a start to action. It needs its leaders to quit acting like children and provide for the children. It needs this now, before it is too late for everyone.