Sequester cuts inspire political attacks

  • Updated: March 11, 2013 - 9:51 PM

And Reps. Peterson and Paulsen have biggest targets on their backs.


Tourists line up at the Capitol Visitors Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Thursday that the Capitol would remain open for all to see and that the decision by the Obama Administration to cancel tours of the White House due to the sequester was silly, essentially a political gimmick.

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The Republican slam on Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson is that he supports the so-called sequester, “but won’t cut funding for robotic squirrels.”

The Democratic attack on Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen is that he “turns a blind eye to thousands of jobs in jeopardy.”

It remains to be seen how onerous the automatic sequester budget cuts will be for ordinary Americans. But amid a growing recognition that the cuts are here to stay, they’ve turned into a powerful fundraising and political tool for lawmakers in Washington and their political parties.

With an eye toward midterm elections next year that could determine President Obama’s second-term legacy, the Democratic and Republican campaign arms in Congress are in full attack mode, with sequester cuts as the weapon of choice.

In Minnesota, much of the Republican fire has been directed at Peterson, a moderate DFLer in a Republican-tilting district that the GOP hopes could help it retain control of the U.S. House.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have aimed primarily at Paulsen, a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

The crossfire comes amid deepening partisan rifts that show no sign of producing a deal to avert the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts that both parties say they oppose.

In the absence of meaningful negotiations to block the cuts, which took effect at the start of this month, the White House and its allies mounted a public awareness campaign highlighting the potential impacts, including more than 16,000 lost jobs and $821 million in vanished income in Minnesota.

Democrats blame the Republicans for forcing the cuts by refusing to go along with new tax increases on the wealthy, what the Democrats call a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction that they believe has public support. Meanwhile, Republicans accuse the Democrats of trying to grandstand on the sequester by making budget cuts in the most visible ways possible.

Bachmann in the mix

When the White House announced last week that new budget constraints would force it to close the executive mansion to public tours, MichelePAC, the political action committee for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., sprang into action.

“Our founders would be ashamed,” Bachmann said in a fundraising pitch to supporters. “After manufacturing a ‘sequester’ crisis of his own creation and attempting to mislead and bully his way into blaming Republicans, President Obama has reached a new low: He’s shut the American people out of the White House!”

Bachmann has herself borne the brunt of attacks by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which has attempted to tie GOP lawmakers to hard-line positions on the debt ceiling and budget cuts. Democrats argue that it was GOP intransigence that brought on the sequester, a regimen of threatened across-the-board cuts that were never meant to take effect.

Paulsen, Kline: ‘Dumb cuts’

But as Bachmann has faded from the public spotlight since her narrow re-election victory in November, Paulsen’s star has risen in GOP party ranks, making him the new poster child for Democratic attacks on the sequester.

“The people of congressman Paulsen’s district want solutions, not sequester,” DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a recent statement. “We’re about to go through yet another crisis manufactured by congressman Paulsen and the Tea Party Republicans.”

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