David Frum

04.25.13

Sequestration Empowered President Obama

Some of us have been warning from the start that forced defaults, sequestrations, and similar devices only end up empowering the executive branch. If Congress wants to determine the shape of spending cuts, it must write a budget. If it simply tells the executive, "spend less in every category," it grants the executive enormous discretion.

And guess what? The executive will use this discretion for its own political purposes. That's just so obvious! Yet House Republicans never saw it coming.

Until now.

Win McNamee/Getty Images ()

After almost 2 years of "not getting it," suddenly … House Republicans are getting it. Here's National Review's Rich Lowry in Politico channeling House GOP annoyance:

Somehow, the Obama administration managed to find the federal employees perhaps most essential to the nation’s transportation and commerce, and send them home. It found one of the few categories of federal workers that operate something, and cut it. It found a way to make one of the most aggravating aspects of modern American life, air travel, even more aggravating.

Well, yeah. The cudgel that President Obama is whacking House Republicans with is the cudgel they themselves put in his hand.

Lowry again:

[Federal Aviation Authority head Michael] Huerta claims sequestration gives him no wiggle room. He is forced into the most stupidly disruptive across-the-board cuts possible and has to get some $100 million in savings through cutbacks on controllers. This is the tale of woe he brought to a recent congressional hearing. Asked by Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky if he had requested any additional flexibility from Congress, he replied, “No.”

That exchange must have amused them in the West Wing.

Congress: "Why didn't you ask us for additional authority to make our own actions less embarrassing to us?"

Head of FAA: "Now why would I do that?"

And why would he?