In 2011 the White House insisted a sequester mechanism be included in the Budget Control Act. Today the president proposed delaying the sequester yet again in exchange for tax hikes and other cuts. Republicans rejected it out of hand.
As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put it:
The President who first proposed the sequester, and who just last year claimed that the sequester ‘will not happen,’ now wants to ‘delay’ the sequester for a few months with more permanent tax hikes at a time when American families are already feeling the pinch of the Obama economy. House Republicans have twice passed legislation that would replace the sequester in a smarter way, only to see it ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate. If Democrats have ideas for smarter cuts, they should bring them up for debate. But the American people will not support more tax hikes in place of the meaningful spending reductions both parties already agreed to and the President signed into law.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also put out a statement:
President Obama first proposed the sequester and insisted it become law. Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense. We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes. The president’s sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years.
A number of House and Senate Republicans issued similar statements. House leadership was equally dismissive.
Certainly the White House knew this was coming, but nevertheless it put out a dead-on-arrival proposal. There are two motivations: to shift the onus of the sequester that President Obama insisted on to the GOP and to fend off the domestic portion of the sequester, which has Democrats worried.
Republicans are right that it is not balanced to replace an all-spending cuts sequester with a mix of spending and tax hikes. So what should they do?
They should pass again their substitute bill with some additions. Since the nominee for secretary of defense says he will not be making policy or running things, his salary, staff, travel and other expenses can be eliminated. If he isn’t going to do the job of the secretary of defense, it is not fair for him to be paid for the policy-making, running-things secretary post. Then send the package over to the Senate and see what comes back.
What about the defense sequester? Well, it is entirely irresponsible to use a meat ax to chop at the defense budget, but that said, unless Republicans put their feet down they will never achieve real spending restraint. In this regard the Congressional Budget Office report today makes clear how Obama has utterly failed to halt our slide into fiscal oblivion. The House Budget Committee summarizes:
The CBO projects an $845 billion deficit for fiscal year 2013.
In 2023, the federal government will collect twice as much revenue as it did in 2012. Even so, the deficit will hit $978 billion.
The CBO projects the total debt will rise by $10 trillion by the end of the budget window (debt held by the public will rise by $8.7 trillion). By 2023, total debt will equal $26 trillion.
Moreover, conservative hawks should be realistic. The president and his defense nominee have no desire to ever use our military. So why pay for what amounts to a fancy hood ornament? As for our real security needs, we have Israel to protect us from Iran and the French to take care of al-Qaeda in North Africa. I mean, isn’t this what leading from behind is all about?
The bottom line: The House should hold the line, make the Senate vote and, if need be, reluctantly accept the sequester. Enough is enough. It is time to get our fiscal house in order.