U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, bashed Republicans on the sequester this morning but she too played a role in it. The backdrop of Wilson's presser today in Pembroke Pines was to criticize the FAA's decision to include the North Perry airport on the list to stop paying for air traffic controllers.
But Wilson, surrounded by local Democratic officials, used the opportunity to call out the GOP. In truth, the White House and both parties are responsible. We will borrow from PolitiFact's guide to the sequestration to explain. In 2011, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner failed to reach a "grand bargain" about the federal budget leading to the Budget Control Act of 2011.
From PolitiFact: "That law included about $1.2 trillion in future budget cuts, but it also directed Congress to find another $1.2 trillion via a bipartisan "supercommittee." As further incentive, the law had a threat: If a supercommittee couldn’t agree on a package, or if Congress voted down the supercomittee proposal, a sequester would automatically go into effect, putting in place nearly across-the-board budget cuts, with half coming from defense. Both Obama and Boehner supported the plan and urged Congress to pass it, which it did, with bipartisan majorities. The supercommittee deadlocked, though, so it never proposed new cuts. Hence the sequester."
We asked Wilson's office for an explanation as to why she voted for the Budget Control Act but then called hreself a "strong opponent of the sequester," in a press release. Here is the response we got from Wilson's office:
“In the Summer of 2011, Tea Party Republicans first engaged in a hostage-taking tactic with the American economy: They threatened to allow the country to default on its debt payments if they did not get their way in the budget debate. Defaulting on our debt would have devastated our nation’s credit ratings and would have ultimately cost more than a million American jobs. The Budget Control Act was a last-ditch compromise effort to defuse this Tea Party hostage-taking. I disliked the Budget Control Act then, just as I do now. But Democrats were forced to vote for it as a way to avert an even bigger crisis. I have sponsored multiple pieces of legislation—including, most recently, H.R. 900 “The Cancel the Sequester Act”—to seek to fix it. No one—including the President and moderate Republicans—expected the sequester to be implemented. It was designed to force Congress to quit playing politics and come together to reach a sensible agreement. By allowing the sequester to take effect against President Obama’s efforts to stop it, the Republicans in Congress have demonstrated that they would prefer to hurt the American people through job-killing budget cuts than to compromise. “
At the airport today, Wilson heaped the blame on the Republican party saying that "we find out this sequestration is something that the Republicans seem to enjoy."
Wilson said that as sequestration continues "you are going to see so much suffering from the constituencies of our districts. I feel that once the Republican constituency base begins to feel these cuts you will see a movement across this nation that will cause the Congress to react and to fight the sequestration."
Wilson described sequestration as punitive and said "We understand now they are cutting Head Start, that they are cutting meals on wheels, that they are cutting research, that they are cutting cancer medications."
Wilson said that sequestration will lead to the loss of millions of jobs and lead the country to the brink of a Depression.
"This has become the civil rights movement of 2013," Wilson said. "We've got to say to all of our churches, all of our elected officials, all of our citizens, all of our agencies, this cannot continue. It's going to hurt people, people will suffer, people will lose their homes, people will lose their tax breaks."
Broward County Commissioners voted earlier this week 8-1 to backfill much of the cuts by providng about $43,000 a month through September. That will allow the airport tower to remain open 10 hours a day down from the current 14. The contractor who provides the staff is expected to layoff three workers.
Tony Saavedra, a single father of two teenagers, is among those getting laidoff. He is considering other job options including returning to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor.
"It's ridiculous it's getting to this point," he said of the sequester
Airport officials said that the FAA included North Perryon the list based on about 135,000 operations last year. But the traffic was down because two runways were closed for reconstruction. During the past six years, the airport had an average of about 155,000 annual operations and projected 160,000 for 2013.
The tower is the 9th busiest in the U.S. and has five flight schools. Planes can fly when the tower isn't staffed, but the majority of the flights occur during the hours when traffic controllers are present.
Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis and Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley expressed concern for the safety of residents who live surrounding the airport. Ortis said seniors living in the nearby senior apartments on the Howard Forman campus are fearful.
"We don't want to see lives lost," Gunzburger said.
County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the lone member to vote against the funding, said in an interview that he voted against the county taking over the federal government's funding responsibility. LaMarca said that all parties involved in the federal budget are at fault. (He has to be careful to avoid the blame game because he faces re-election in a left-leaning district in 2014.)
As for the cuts, "I think it is being done in a manner to try to bring people into hysteria."
To read multiple fact-checks on the sequester read the round up by PolitiFact.