WASHINGTON -- Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) is placing blame for the looming sequester firmly at the feet of Republicans in Congress, saying legislative inaction on their part is putting the nation at risk of severe cuts to defense and domestic spending.
"The whole idea of a representative body is to do legislation," he said. "We have people now who don't want to do legislation."
Speaking at the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association, Abercrombie told reporters that the current battles in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are a follow-up to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's work in the 1990s.
"The Tea Party is the son of the Contract with America," Abercrombie said. "This ideological approach to government itself, particularly in the House of Representatives, needs to be eliminated."
Sequestration, a series of automatic spending cuts totaling more than $1 trillion over the next decade, will begin to take effect March 1 if Congress does not act. It is a main topic of discussion during the NGA annual meeting among governors who fear the impact the federal cuts will have on their states.
In Hawaii, Abercrombie said the sequester would cause 19,000 employees at the military's Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor to be reduced to four-day weeks. He sought to highlight the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in discussing the military base's importance to the country, noting the cuts would have a severe impact on national security, in addition to the economic impact cited by many of his gubernatorial colleagues.
Abercrombie, who served two decades in the House of Representatives before winning the governorship in 2010, blamed partisanship among conservative Republicans, saying that the current GOP leadership does not want to work with Democratic lawmakers. He said that during his congressional tenure, he was able to collaborate with Republicans on a variety of issues, and that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay would allow floor votes on Democratic-sponsored bills. Abercrombie said that he doubts bills he sponsored would receive a floor vote now if he were still in Congress.
Despite his harsh words for Republicans in Congress, Abercrombie said he expects lawmakers to reach a compromise that would delay sequestration, arguing that the economic problems it would cause are too severe to do otherwise.
"There may be stubbornness, but I don't think we are at the suicidal stage," he said.