Paul Ryan insists that it’s perfectly consistent for him to criticize the president for supporting the triggered defense (and non-defense) cuts that he himself voted for last year. “We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending somewhere else. The Senate’s done nothing. President Obama’s done nothing,” Ryan told Norah O’Donnell on Sunday. ”What’s his plan for the sequester? He’s ignoring the law.”
Ryan’s right that Obama still hasn’t laid out his plan for how his administration would actually implement the sequester, as the White House has already missed the deadline for submitting the legally required report.
But Ryan is wrong in stating that Obama has no sequester replacement: In fact, the president has proposed a 2013 budget that avoids the sequester’s automatic cuts for all 10 years, while Ryan’s alternative would only stop the cuts for 2013. ”The automatic enforcement procedures specified by the Budget Control Act are set to go into effect in January 2013 … the president’s budget does not include those reductions,” the Congressional Budget Office concluded in its report. The president instead wants to avoid the cuts by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire and by cutting spending on mandatory programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, among other changes.
But Congress has kept it from going anywhere: Both the House and Senate voted down Obama’s budget, but in the Senate, the 0-99 vote was political theater: Republicans offered up the president’s budget without any of the actual policy language attached, so none of the specifics were actually up for a vote.
So, contra Ryan, the president has offered a concrete alternative to the defense sequester, but Congress has rejected it. The same could be said for Ryan’s own sequester alternative, which passed the House but went nowhere in the Senate. One could argue that the GOP has made more political progress with their plan, relatively speaking, as the Senate Democrats haven’t pushed Obama’s plan. But that’s a different argument than the one that Ryan is making: that the president is just “ignoring the law” and allowing the sequester to take effect, when in fact he’s responded to it with an alternative in the same way that Ryan has.
Curiously, Ryan also claims in his interview with O’Donnell that “the supercommittee offered” a sequester alternative. In fact, the supercommittee failed to come to an agreement, and it wasn’t just the Democrats’ fault: Republicans rejected the entitlement cuts that Democrats were offering as insufficient, while Democrats faulted Republicans for refusing to do more to increase revenue through taxes. And it’s that bipartisan group’s failure, not Obama’s, that has actually triggered the sequester.