Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Will the GOP Blink First on Sequestration Cuts?

Washington politics nowadays is best summed up as a constant game of blackmail where the GOP controlled House - the GOP still has control only because of gerrymandered districts - threatens to wreak harm on the rest of the nation unless its demands are met.  And the game is less reminiscent of the blackmail stunts of a petulant child than those of a dull witted bully.  When one criticizes this bad behavior, too many Republicans stick their heads in the sand and lash out at their critics rather than open their eyes to what the GOP has become.  One former GOP compatriot of mine regular calls me "angry" rather than open her eyes.  My response to her is that she needs to stop drinking the Christofascist/Tea Party Kool-Aid.  An article in New York Magazine looks at whether or not Obama will call the GOP's bluff on the so-called sequestration cuts (the fiscal cliff deal merely pushed back the start date for these across the board cuts) and allow them to kick in and gore many GOP sacred cows, including military spending.  Here are some article excerpts:

As the next round of the fiscal showdown takes shape, John Boehner has made what is either a very big move or a very big bluff. In an interview with Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore, the House Speaker asserted that his side is perfectly willing to let the automatic budget cuts set up in the summer of 2011 to take effect

When Boehner and Obama stalemated over the budget in 2011, they agreed to institute a trigger, starting in 2013, to create automatic deficit reduction. Since Republicans would never allow the trigger to include higher revenue, Obama insisted that the cuts exempt most anti-poverty programs and fall heavily on defense.
Obama assumed that the prospect of huge cuts to the military would frighten at least some Republicans. The design of the automatic cuts, or “sequestration,” was to pit elements of the Republican coalition against each other — specifically, to force pro-military Republicans to break from anti-tax absolutists. And indeed, the party’s defense hawks have loudly decried the cuts and called for replacing them with a “balanced solution” — which means a mix of higher tax revenue and lower spending on retirement programs, which is also Obama’s position.
Boehner doesn’t want that. He wants to replace the automatic cuts with cuts to retirement programs and zero new revenue. Now, Obama almost surely would never accept that. So the leverage game here centers on which party finds the automatic cuts more painful.
Boehner is asserting that Republicans don’t actually care that much about cutting defense — that replacing the sequester is something Democrats want. Just because Boehner says this doesn’t make it true. He may be holding his defense hawks in line publicly, but the question is whether he can keep them in line as the negotiations proceed and the prospect of implementing the cuts grows more real.

Since Virginia receives the most federal spending of any state, it will be especially hard hit if sequestration becomes a reality.   Virginia congressional Republicans will be under extreme pressure to avoid this consequence.  Sequestration would also kick in during a year that the Virginia House of Delegates is up for re-election and could cause strong anti-GOP feeling in a gubernatorial election year as well.

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