Politics & Policy

Why Democrats Should Fear Budget Sequester Cuts


Why Democrats Should Fear Budget Sequester Cuts

Photograph by Layne Laughter/Lockheed Martin

While both parties are beginning to position themselves for the showdown over the $1.2 trillion in automatic “sequestration” cuts that take effect on March 1, Democrats are generally seen as having the advantage. The programs they’re most concerned about (Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition assistance) are, for the most part, spared the budget axe. The same is not true for Republicans. Sequestration makes deep cuts to the military budget, a source of intensifying concern for conservatives, who have already begun fighting amongst themselves over how to respond. The emerging view among Washington insiders is that the sequester will probably not be averted before March 1, but that Republicans will probably make concessions as the cuts begin to bite.

But a new study out Thursday morning from Bloomberg Government (subscription only) does quite a bit to upend that logic. The study shows that Democratic congressional districts will be harder hit by the military cuts than Republican ones, and that eight of the top 10 districts that will experience the deepest cuts are represented by Democrats. Robert Levinson, the Bloomberg Government defense analyst who conducted the study, found that “Democrats won 47 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives in the 2012 election, but 58 percent of the military’s fiscal 2012 prime contract spending went to companies performing work in those districts.” Among the top districts, military spending in those represented by Democrats averaged $893 million this year, vs. $573 million in those represented by Republicans.

Which districts will experience the most pain? Topping the list is Missouri’s first district, which is represented by Democrat William Lacy Clay and received $11.4 billion in “prime defense contract dollars.” Interestingly, Clay may not have to worry. Much of the defense work in his district is done by Boeing (BA) for the Saudi government and therefore won’t get cut. Democratic Representative James Moran, on the other hand, is probably concerned about the $11.3 billion sent to Virginia’s eighth district. Rounding out the top three is Republican Representative Kay Granger, whose Texas 12th district received $9.8 billion last year. Representative Morris Brooks of Alabama’s fifth district is the only other Republican in the top 10, with $5.9 billion in contracts headed his way.

For those curious about which member of Congress has the least to fear from defense cuts, that would be Representative Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn, whose district received a measly $300,000 in defense contracts.

Green_190
Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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