WASHINGTON — The bluntness of sequestration was supposed to be what made it so effective. The $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years would hit everywhere and everything. Its indiscriminate, draconian nature would compel lawmakers into finding a replacement.
With the Friday deadline for sequestration approaching, however, the prospect of finding said replacement appears slim. And lawmakers are being forced to contend with the likelihood that their priorities will get the axe, too. That includes some of the conservative voices that seem increasingly comfortable with the prospect of sequestration.
Back in June 1999, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now House Budget Committee chairman, took to the House floor to ask for federal funding for an airport in his district.
“The Rock County Airport is in desperate need of improving,” he said at the time. “Rock County began work on these improvements but federal assistance is needed to address this immediate need. These improvements are critical not only to the local businesses in the district I represent but also to the local economy and the livelihood of the employees who work at these businesses.”
The video surfaced briefly during the 2012 campaign, as evidence of a self-styled fiscal conservative hypocritically pleading for federal funds. Now, the Rock County Airport is back in the news with officials there worried that it could be on the chopping block should the sequester hit. As the GazetteXtra.com reported: For the federal government, it’s just another small airport.
For Rock County, it’s a crucial part of economic infrastructure that could take an operational hit — unless the elected officials can reach a budget compromise.
On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was making plans for the possible “sequestration” — the automatic budget cuts that would go into effect Friday, March 1, if no budget agreement is reached.
Those FAA plans include instituting furlough days for almost all employees and closing more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations each year.
The Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville falls into that category.
Officials at the Rock County Airport didn’t return a request for comment about operations being affected by sequestration. Nor did Ryan’s office.
The theory goes that fiscal conservatives are always fiscal conservatives — except when it comes to their districts. But if sequester goes through Friday with Ryan’s philosophical backing — Ryan has said he’d prefer a replacement to sequestration but isn’t uncomfortable with the concept — it will be with the knowledge that even his district is no exception.