The SuperSonic Senate

I was working the door at a community event last night, and went to bed soon after arriving home, so it wasn’t until this morning that I knew about the lightning action that the World’s Most Dysfunctional Deliberative Body, the U.S. Senate, took, overcoming the massive obstacles that have become so customary, in order to ensure the FAA has the “flexibility” under the appropriations sequester to avoiding furloughs of air controllers and hence delays in air travel.

The reaction of the blogopshere has been equally quick, and almost universally derisive. Here’s Brother Benen:

When the sequester started kicking children out of pre-K, Congress did nothing. When this stupid policy denied low-income seniors the benefits of Meals on Wheels, Congress barely noticed. When sequestration cuts put new burdens on cancer patients and cut housing aid to struggling families, most of Congress shrugged its shoulders.

But when business travelers ran into flight delays on Monday, a unanimous Senate approved a fix without breaking a sweat on Thursday.

Matt Yglesias cites some work by Larry Bartels on the responsiveness of senators to demands for legislation by different income groups (surprise! Po’ folks don’t have much pull with either party) and concludes:

So it turns out that when congress cuts domestic discretionary spending “across the board” they don’t really cut it across the board. A program that’s important to prosperous frequent travelers gets spare the ax.

But could this turn out to be a break in the dam, enabling Congress to address the idiocy of sequestration more broadly? Dream on, says Salon‘s Alex Pareene:

The Senate, which can’t confirm a judge without months of delay and a constitutional crisis, passed this particular bill in about two minutes, with unanimous consent. The hope is that the House can get it taken care of today, I guess in time for everyone to fly to Aspen or wherever people whom Congress listens to fly to on Fridays.

After that Congress will be done fixing all the various problems with the design and implementation of the sequestration [quoting the Washington Post]:

“But House action on a broader deal to undo the across-the-board cuts appears remote. House conservatives say much of the impact has been exaggerated by the White House, and they have relished the success of forcing visible spending cuts on a Democratic administration.

“’I think it’s the first time we’ve saved money in Washington, D.C.,” said Representative Raul Labrador, Republican of Idaho. ‘I think we need to move on from the subject.’”

Indeed, as Benen observes, this is “a win for Republicans” insofar as they’ve been arguing that the sequester can be “managed” by moving funds around and getting rid of “wasteful spending” without real cuts to anything that really matters–you know, like air traffic controllers. Soon we will be hearing that the FAA incident proves the Obama administration’s “firemen first” game of “manufacturing” a crisis by applying the sequester to highly visible agency functions has been exposed as a fraud, making the sequester a conservative triumph! Bet on it.

UPDATE: You don’t have to bet on it. National Review editor Rich Lowry has already written it all up.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.