The Morning Plum: Republican governors urge GOP to act on sequester

With the sequester set to hit this week, the White House will intensify its public campaign to draw attention to how the cuts will bring the hammer down on state budgets. So one outstanding question is this: Will Republican governors put pressure on the Congressional GOP to agree to new revenues?

Politico has a roundup of quotes from Republican governors, and some seem to be edging up ever so gingerly to the idea. They don’t say so in those terms, but many of them are urging all parties to come to the table to make a deal. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is urging lawmakers to figure out a way to avert the sequester, but as Politico notes, he no longer appears to be willing to blame only Obama for the current standoff.

McDonnell is particularly interesting because he has just completed a deal in his state for a sweeping transportation bill financed largely by higher sales and car taxes. Given that McDonnell represents a state that will be hit hard by the sequester, Dems hope he’ll urge Congressional Republicans to compromise on revenues, too. If McDonnell is willing to agree to new revenues to make governing possible, which is earning him props for placing pragmatic problem-solving over ideology, why not urge Congressional Republicans to do the same, particularly since his state is in the sequester’s crosshairs?

It may be too much to expect the likes of McDonnell to anger conservatives by calling on the national party to accept the need to compromise. But Republican governors have a history of bucking the national GOP message when the pressure of reality grows hard to resist. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican governors who were seeing the economy improve in their states — and rightly wanted to say so out loud — found themselves at odds with the national GOP message that the economy was sinking into recession under the weight of Obama’s policies.

Congressional GOP leaders are currently mulling a plan to continue funding the government after the shutdown deadline of March 27st — but at the lower levels specified by the sequester. As the reality of these cuts set in over time, how will Republican governors react?

UPDATE: Another example of Republican governors embracing reality and bucking the conservative party line: Their willingness to opt in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

* Sequester set to slam states: The White House releases new data painting a dire picture of the impact the sequester cuts could have on individual states: Education cuts impacting thousands of students; thousands of children not getting necessary vaccines; over 100,000 civilian employees at the department of defense furloughed; etc. The real action in the sequester fight will unfold in March, when each side seeks to blame the other for cuts once they begin to be felt by the electorate. Worth keeping in mind that the GOP’s standing is far lower with the public than Obama’s.

* Gun fight will pose major test for suburban Republicans: E.J. Dionne notes today that sensible gun legislation actually has a real chance at passage, which signals a genuine shift in the politics of guns and in the refusal of Dems (finally!) to be cowed by the supposed invincibility of the “gun rights” lobby. With the Senate set to work on legislation this week, it’s still unclear whether John Boehner will allow a vote on the most sensible and popular measures (like expanded background checks); the question is whether Republicans in suburban districts will demand the leadership act.

* Is Tom Coburn trying to kill background check deal? I reported here recently that the bipartisan group of four Senators working on legislation expanding background checks were close to a deal. But over the weekend, Senator Tom Coburn suddenly said the deal is not close, and lamented the possibility of the background check creating “record keeping.”

In reality, the background check system explicitly forbids the creation of any national gun registry. This raises the possibility that Coburn is laying the groundwork to any compromise bill unacceptable, no matter what it contains.

* Time to focus on high capacity magazine ban? The Post has a good editorial noting that the magazine ban is an easier lift, both practically and politically, than the assault weapons ban is likely to prove. The magazine ban — along with expanded background checks and the anti-trafficking proposal — provide lawmakers a way of supporting action in the face of continuing gun violence without embracing the assault ban, which (unlike the other proposals) has a direct impact on the limits on gun ownership itself.

* The GOP’s Ted Cruz problem: He’s only one Senator, but as Steve Kornacki points out, his immediate high profile could pose an obstacle to the GOP’s “makeover” efforts:

Cruz is now positioned as a major obstacle to the ideological modernization that the Republican Party is desperately in need of. If his brand of conservatism is treated as the gold standard of purity by the conservative media and conservative activists, Republican leaders will have a hard time moving the party away from its Obama-era orthodoxy. This could affect the calculations of Republican office-holders in the coming months, as Congress tackles immigration, guns and other issues on which the GOP is out of step with mainstream opinion. It could also lead to more trouble for the party in Senate races next year.

And if Republicans continue opposing key elements of Obama’s agenda, it could deepen the party’s estrangement from constituencies that Dems are increasingly relying on, ones that are growing as a share of the electorate.

* Republicans divided over gay marriage: A very good point from Beth Reinhard: The upcoming Supreme Court cases on DOMA and Prop 8 are going to revive the national debate over gay marriage in a big way, which will intensify the ongoing discussions now taking place within the GOP over whether to evolve on the issue already. This is another issue where Republicans risk deepening estrangement from a growing segment of the electorate — young voters.

* Yes, policies have consequences: Dem strategist Robert Zimmerman is embroiled in an interesting fight with the right over his claim that GOP-backed sequestration cuts to government could undermine “law enforcement” and lead to “more Chicagos,” a claim that’s being pilloried as partisan. Zimmerman, though, was critical of Obama early on over the sequester. And is it really the contention of conservatives that deep, across the board cuts to government won’t have any policy consequences?

* And is Ashley Judd set to challenge Mitch McConnell? Dem Rep. John Yarmuth, Ashley Judd’s biggest supporter in Kentucky, tells ABC News: “I would be surprised if she doesn’t run at this point.”

What else?

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