Sen. Mark Warner on why the sequester cuts are 'stupid'

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) waits to speak with members of the media at the election night event.

Congress is off this week, and lawmakers are back home in their districts, doing town halls and meeting with constituents. What makes this congressional break a little more newsy than others is that the sequester cuts are due to hit March 1. These cuts are big and broad, and many senators and representatives think they could do great harm to their states.

Virginia Democrat Mark Warner sits on the Senate Budget Committee and he says that the sequester plan is "the most stupid option possible."

The cuts, should they happen, will be across the board without any regard to what programs are more valuable than others. Every budget will be affected equally from the Federal Aviation Administration to the Food and Drug Administration, and cuts to the Defense Department will hit hard in Virginia, which is Sen. Warner's home state.

"Just like families, when the military goes out and buys 10 tanks instead of one tank we get a discount," he explains. "Because each account will get cut equally, some of these contracts will have to be broken and the discount that we recieve will end up costing us more than the savings."

He adds: "When you do this across the board without regard to merit, the American public will have a right to be outraged at all of us."

So why create the sequester when it was doomed from the start? Well, says Warner, it goes way back to the summer of 2011 when Congress was fighting over whether to raise the debt ceiling. "It was set up around the whole debacle around the debt ceiling ...with the expectation that the so-called supercommittee would do its job."

But, he says, that congressional "super" committee forged to come up with a deficit reduction plan didn't do its job, which leaves us where we are now.

"There are a lot of folks in Washington that, quite honestly, I'm not sure want to reach the compromise that we need," says Warner. "We have to do more revenues, we have to reform entitlements, we have to do cutting -- but there seems to be a lot more about who is going to win the political argument of the day or the week versus how do we make sure we get this economy going."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Kai - I was stunned when you asked Mark Warner if President Obama had walked away from the report from "his own Simpson-Bowles Commission" and said that the only place the "Simpson-Bowles Committe report" could be found was on whitehouse.org.

There is no Simpson-Bowles Commission report, and certainly not one from the commission constituted by President Obama. The "The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform" was created with the proviso that an official report was only possible with 2/3 of the participants voting. They couldn't even get to 1/2, and so NO REPORT WAS ISSUED. How could Obama walk away from a report that doesn't exist?

Mr. Alan Simpson and Mr. Erskin Bowles got together and wrote a report under their own names that was not reviewed by the commission, was not voted on by the commission, and was certainly not passed by the commission. Therefore no report was issued. People have made the mistake of the report issued by these two men as coming from the Simpson Bowles Commission, but it did not and they are wrong. As a leader in fiscal and governmental report, you should not be one of these people.

It is simply wrong to say that there was such a report, and a correction should be issued on the air. This is not a nuanced issue where there are two sides to it; there was no report and you clearly stated there was one. Obama did not walk away from the nonexistent report, and you clearly stated he did. Journalistic ethics require a correction to factual errors.

Kai- You referred to Simpson Bowles today (when speaking to Sen Warner) as if it were a fait accompli. Sadly, it was the second version of the sequester. The Commission was formed with 18 votes and by the rules that Congress made when it formed the commission, the end result had to have 12 (2/3) votes. It didn't get those votes. The commission was not able to agree, much the same as Congress can't agree. The President and the Speaker did use the framework for their 'grand bargain' and we all saw where that went. You do us no service to support the finger pointing; Sen Warner put it best when he said 'there is no shortage of blame to go around."

For every type of spending in Washington their is a constituency that benefits from it. Each will fight to defend the money it receives. Since we've proven many times over that they are able to effectively stop any cuts or even cut in the rate of growth like are coming up now, a shared across the board cut is the most fair and balanced approach. When we are able to lift some of the tax burden from the real economy, then we'll have a chance at getting it moving again.

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