I don't generally endorse theories of pathological Democratic weakness, but there really is no other way to see Senate Democrats voting to exclude FAA furloughs from sequestration. As my label-mate Derek Thompson points out, when you have a Congress that "reacts to flight delays but not to low-income families losing housing vouchers" you have a basic problem of democracy.
Everyone agrees that sequestration is horrible policy. That was the point. Democrats now agree that poor and working people should bear the full brunt of that policy, while Delta Gold members should bear less of it. This is cruelty, or at least the willingness to abide cruelty. From Ezra Klein:
Recall the Democrats' original theory of the case: Sequestration was supposed to be so threatening that Republicans would agree to a budget deal that included tax increases rather than permit it to happen. That theory was wrong. The follow-up theory was that the actual pain caused by sequestration would be so great that it would, in a matter of months, push the two sides to agree to a deal. Democrats just proved that theory wrong, too.In effect, what Democrats said Friday was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched. The result is that sequestration is no longer particularly politically threatening, but it's even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affects the politically powerless will persist. It's worth saying this clearly: The pain of sequestration will be concentrated on those who lack political power.
As a CQ / Roll Call reporter tweeted last night, "Make no mistake, this FAA fix is a complete, utter cave by Senate Democrats and, if signed, by the White House." This is a sentiment expressed in other press reports over the last 12 hours, including, Politico: "Democrats blink first on aviation" and Chicago Tribune: "White House Scrambles For Damage Control."Consider that the Democrats opening position was they would only replace the sequester with tax increases. By the first of this week Senator Reid proposed replacing the whole sequester with phony war savings. And by last night, Senate Democrats were adopting our targeted "cut this, not that" approach.