"It doesn't make any sense whatsoever," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the sequester, the looming draconian budget cuts that were the main topic Sunday's Face the Nation. "The fact that this is so easily avoidable is why I'm so angry. If folks would just work together, find middle ground, we wouldn't put districts and families and children through this much trauma," Duncan told CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, sitting in for Bob Schieffer. The sequester, set to take effect on March 1st, has already caused instability in public schools, warned Secretary Duncan. "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices they can't come back this fall. We need to invest in education. We need to educate our way to a better economy."
When Garrett pointed out, however, that the sequester was originally proposed by the Obama administration before it was approved by Congress, Duncan conceded he was right, but the cuts were never meant to actually happen. "I think the sequester was set up to be so painful for everybody -- recognizing the dysfunction of Congress -- to be so painful it would force people to come to the table. The fact that people in Congress are so tone deaf to what is really going on in their districts and what would really happen, that to me it's just unimaginable."
Also on Sunday--Governors Martin O'Malley (D-MD), Bob McDonnell (R-Va.), John Hickenlooper (D- Col.) and Jan Brewer (R. Ariz.) joined "Face the Nation" to discuss the real world effect of the sequester in their local states. McDonnell, whose home state of Virginia would be drastically impacted by severe defense cuts should the sequester go forward, made an impassioned plea for timely action to avert the sequester. "The sequester was put in place to be a hammer, not a policy. And now here we are, just a week away from getting it done," said McDonnell. "Don't put 50% of the cuts on Defense, on men and women in uniform, while we're still fighting a war in Afghanistan. That's not the right way to balance the cuts that are necessary. Find another way to do it and get it done now."
Governor O'Malley echoed McDonnell's sentiments, saying, "This sequester stands to wipe out a lot of hard fought job gains in Virginia and Maryland." In a nod to bipartisan solutions to the sequester, O'Malley continued, "Whatever our differences might be, we understand that this is an economic threat." Governor Brewer joined in, saying "They should have resolved it a long time ago."
Governors Hickenlooper and Brewer also discussed comprehensive immigration reform this Sunday. "You've really got to focus on the whole problem at the same time," Hickenlooper warned, calling for a thorough solution to ensure "that 20 years down the road we're not going to get back in the same position." Brewer, whose home state of Arizona is particularly relevant in the immigration discussion, said "We need to secure the border first and then move forward," calling an insecure border a "stumbling block" to any real change.
Garrett also spoke to Senate Budget Committee members Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to get their take on the sequester. "There is no reason this needs to happen. We just need to find a balanced approach," said Kaine. "There's no reason we should be playing this kind of brinksmanship." Ayotte agreed, but was careful to point out the political undertone in the ongoing sequester negotiations. "I think the American people are tired of the blame game. To come up with responsible spending reductions, we can do that without hurting our economy."
For more "Face the Nation, be sure to check out our roundtable,, with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Penn., National Mental Health Alliance executive director Michael Fitzpatrick, Parents Television Council head Tim Winters, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole and Texas A&M International psychology professor Chris Ferguson. Watch our full broadcast above.