POLITICS
02/28/2013 10:07 am ET

Mitch McConnell, GOP Hit By Unions On Sequester

Some of the largest public-sector unions in the country renewed their attack on congressional Republicans over sequestration Thursday, making a six-figure advertising buy aimed at shaming GOP lawmakers over cuts to domestic programs.

The advertisement (below) asks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) if he wants to be remembered for "inflicting pain on millions, just to protect tax loopholes for corporations and the richest few." It was paid for by the 1.6-million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the two largest teacher unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association; and the Service Employees International Union, which has two million members in the private and public sectors.

Unions, particularly those representing federal and other public employees, have been some of the loudest critics of the looming $85 billion sequestration cuts, which will go into effect Friday unless Congress and the White House manage to reach a miraculous, alternate deal before then. If they're not undone, the across-the-board government cuts could lead to furloughs for federal employees and workers under federal contracts, as well as layoffs for teachers whose jobs hinge on an estimated $2.5 billion in funding from the Department of Education.

"These cuts are not just numbers—every cut and every dollar has a real-life consequence for our children, our families and for the people who teach, heal and nurture them,” Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, said in a statement. “We are talking about the difference between helping a child succeed and letting that child fall further behind in the classroom."

Like the White House itself, organized labor has argued that the looming sequester cuts -- estimated to be about 5 percent of funding to non-military domestic programs -- would jeopardize a fragile economic recovery in which unemployment still hovers near 8 percent. Created as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, sequestration was meant to force lawmakers to make difficult decisions about spending and revenue in order to avoid the automatic cuts.

On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO labor federation called on Congress to repeal the sequester, noting that the only thing most lawmakers seem to agree on is that the cuts themselves would be harmful.

"This was designed to force Congress to do something stupid and destructive," said Damon Silvers, the federation's policy director. "The smart thing is to not do something stupid and destructive."

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