I am, for the most part, a partisan hack. Accordingly, the last two months have been difficult because in an ideal world I would spend all or almost all my time criticizing Democrats. However, Republicans have failed so spectacularly and repeatedly since taking over control of Congress that it’s difficult to find the time and energy. The latest of these capitulations concerns Republican surrender on one of the few good things the Republicans were able to accomplish during the first 6 years of Obama’s Presidency: the sequester. In the name of removing the sequester from defense-related spending, the Republicans are set to just jettison the whole thing altogether, which is probably the result they desired in the first place:
The sequestration spending caps, once thought to be so odious that Congress would never actually allow them to take effect, are set to hit again in January. And despite all of the internal fighting among Republicans over whether to bust the limits on defense spending, the budgets that the House and Senate will pass this week will do nothing to stop it.
The much-lauded bipartisan 2013 Ryan-Murray agreement to alter some of the caps lasts for just two years and will soon expire, leaving Congress with the headache of how to handle the across-the-board cuts later this year.
But given the power defense hawks have shown in both chambers over the last week of budget negotiations, there are clear signs that even the Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t want to face another round of sequestration.
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The “Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund to Strengthen America’s Priorities” looks innocuous enough. It’s vaguely worded and buried in the Senate’s budget alongside several other reserve funds aimed at energy, tax reform, health care, and other legislative issues. But the eleven-line provision could set the stage for a deal to eliminate—or at least alleviate—the sequestration caps for both defense and non-defense funding set to go into effect early next year.
That last bit is key. If Republicans hope to spend additional money on defense over the next year, they’ll need to pass a law through both the House and Senate that alters the Budget Control Act. Altering the defense spending caps is unlikely to be enough to earn the support of six Democrats in the Senate, much less President Obama’s signature. That means that congressional negotiators will have to alter the caps for both defense and non-defense programs.
Here is the reality: there is a lot of wasteful spending within the Department of Defense. Don’t take my word for it, take [mc_name name=’Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000560′ ]’s, or Heritage, or AEI, or any number of other groups who study government spending. Definitely, military spending is the most important of Federal spending but the Department of Defense as a whole has become an ever-increasing vehicle for wasteful government spending and could use as much trimming as any other Federal department.
Second – and it’s getting a bit old, beating this drum – but what on earth is wrong with the idea of actually making the Democrats vote against Defense spending and/or forcing Obama to veto it before pre-emptively deciding that the game isn’t worth the candle? Even if you believe that the likely end of this game is defeat, isn’t there a value of placing the Democrats on the record in terms of being opposed to strong national defense? If Obama played this card to such effect during the DHS shutdown battle, why can’t Republicans bother themselves to play the same card on him?
I mean, it’s like these people have never even heard of going down fighting and/or scoring political points in the process. It’s like the Republican leadership has basically become the Eeyore Caucus wherein they have determined ahead of time that everyone will hate what they want to do and they might as well give the Democrats what they want before anything gets difficult or causes anyone any trouble. And if this is how they intend to serve out the rest of this term, why not just go home and let the Democrats run the show, officially?