To paraphrase Shakespeare's line in Julius Caesar: "Beware the 'end' of March."
The sequester that requires $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, which will be felt in March, and a resolution to keep funding government all come together in a super storm before April. Even then, the crises are not over.
In May comes the debt limit and in April budget brouhahas. Both political parties should heed the classic warning, but the GOP has more to fear, which is why plunging off the cliffs will not happen.
Will the sky really fall if no compromises are reached? The impact may not be as dramatic as a James Bond movie or even as much as the White House predicts, but we would soon know from experiencing it hands-on. Depending on the extent of the consequences and who will get the blame could color to the political landscape in the 2014 elections and even change the party in control in one or both houses of Congress.
What we do know is that a significant degree of bad things will happen if Congress does not start compromising. Even those not from the White House agree. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts a rise in unemployment and even retarding of economic growth.
Republican governors are getting nervous, too. They see the downside of the sequester. Republican-dominated Texas is looking at forcing local school districts to fire teachers. Michigan, with a Republican governor, worries about losing money for people to heat their homes. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia calls the threatened cuts "devastating" since they depend so heavily of federal workers and military contractors who live there.
Blue-leaning states like Colorado would feel the pain, too, according to non-partisan observers. There are 10,000 civilian employees of the military and 6,500 at the Denver Federal Center, some of whom will be furloughed with ripple effects through our local economies as they lose take-home pay. TV station KKCO 11 recently interviewed National Guard officials, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, and others and reported estimates that "more than $48 million in wages would be lost to Colorado over the next few months," that the furloughs of civilian technician employees of the National Guard would "directly impact their readiness and ability to respond" to a disaster. I fear that could be critical in a looming wildfire season.
How likely is the GOP to get the blame? A recent USA/PEW public opinion poll was revealing: The GOP will take the biggest hit because the public is not in sympathy with their stonewalling on closing loopholes and their relying exclusively on cuts to spending to solve the deficit problem. President Obama won the balanced and fair argument in the November election and he is still winning in the court of public opinion polls in February.
Would who takes the blame be a political game changer? Swing states like Colorado, already turning blue, could get even bluer. A Republican-held House seat could be even more in play in 2014 when heavyweight Democrat Andrew Romanoff takes on incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman in the 6th District.
Elsewhere, Tea Party glitz could lose its luster, too, as fellow travelers find fanatical adherence to the concept of slashing federal budgets now butts up against reality of security lines at the airport, school boards announcing the reduction in teachers for next fall, the economy showing another month of negative growth, or Wall Street tanking and the unemployment figures rising. GOP leaders are not blind to the potential harm to their party, which is why it is most likely they will find a way to get their Tea Party members to come down from their stone wall and start dealing.
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