Here's one reason why Democrats are in such a tizzy over the sequester spending cuts and ever-tighter budgets: It's affecting their personal staffs and budgets.
Two senior Democrats complained at a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday that the combination of cuts over the past two years has robbed them of nearly 11 percent of their personal budgets, which average $1.3 million.
Now House officials are looking at an additional 8.2 percent cut, or about $100,000. Total cut over three years: nearly 20 percent.
"If it's a $100,000 reduction in your [allowance] you really need to start preparing for a staff change," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. "That's a whole person!"
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Congress has had to reduce constituent services because of the sequester. "We're really starting to see the effects of that in our office," she said.
The cuts have also affected the quality of life for congressional aides, said Wasserman Schultz, whose defense of Capitol Hill staffers amid budget cuts has won her unofficial den mother status among many. At the hearing, for example, she said prices of meals in House restaurants are getting so high that aides are being "priced out" of a good meal.
And, she added, the cuts demanded by House leaders over the past three years have lessened the attractiveness of Hill jobs. "The more we rob Peter to pay Paul," she said, "the tougher it is for us to compete not only with the private sector but with other federal agencies."
She and several other Democrats suggested that the House give up its $3 million legal defense of the controversial Defense of Marriage Act, now before the Supreme Court, and divert the money back into House operations.
Rep. Rodney Alexander, the Louisiana Republican who is the new chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on legislative affairs, shrugged off concerns about staffs and budgets, noting that he "made the necessary adjustments," including axing four aides.