On ABC’s This Week Sunday morning, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) called out Tom Cole (R-OK) for his claim that President Obama is responsible for the automatic budget cuts set to go into effect if Congress cannot reach a budget deal by March. The so-called “sequester” includes steep defense cuts intended to motivate Republicans who refused to agree to any deal that included a tax increase in 2011.
When Cole tried to pin the cuts on Obama, Ellison reminded him that Cole himself voted for the Budget Control Act that created the sequester:
COLE: I think it is inevitable. This was a presidential suggestion back in 2011, an idea. And yet the president himself hasn’t put out any alternatives. Republicans twice in the House have passed legislation to deal with it, once as early as last May and again after the election in December. Senate never picked up either of those bills, never offered their own thing. Now we’re three weeks out, and folks are worried. They ought to be worried. On the other hand, these cuts are going to occur. [...]
ELLISON: Well, Tom, the problem with saying this is the president’s idea is that you voted for the Budget Control Act. I voted against it. We wouldn’t have ever been talking about the Budget Control Act but for your party refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling something that has been routinely increased as the country needed it. You used that occasion in 2011 August to basically say we are going to default on the country’s obligations or you’re going to give us dramatic spending cuts. That’s how we got to the Budget Control Act.
As Ellison points out, Republican lawmakers brought the country to the brink of default while trying to extract devastating spending cuts from Democrats. The Budget Control Act was an eleventh hour deal to avoid an economic shutdown. Even so, the debt ceiling fight resulted in the nation’s first ever credit downgrade and $18.9 billion in wasted taxpayer dollars.
Essential government programs are already feeling the effects of the Budget Control Act; domestic spending in food safety, education, Social Security, and poverty assistance programs has plummeted to historic lows thanks to the act’s future spending caps. If Congress cannot come to an agreement by March, even more cuts will further cripple these already vulnerable programs.