In August 2011, Obama hatched a deal to grant himself a free $2.1 trillion increase in debt, which would take him past the 2012 elections, thereby sparing him the embarrassment of another debt limit request during the campaign season. He knew that such a request was so bold it needed to be ensconced in a deal that would give voters the impression he was committed to cutting spending. To that end, the Budget Control Act called for the creation of a super committee to identify $1.2 trillion in baseline cuts and tax increases. Given that the committee would be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, Obama knew that this would trigger the sequestration. And that is exactly what he wanted.
Nobody could accuse Republicans of designing the sequester. Only a leftist like Obama would ensure that the one mechanism to actually cut spending would disproportionately cut defense. For example, this year’s sequester will cut $42.7 billion from defense, $28.7 billion from non-defense discretionary spending, and $14 billion from mandatory spending, most notably, to healthcare providers. Obama figured that Republicans would be so scared of the defense sequester that they would come to him begging for a reprieve. That way Obama would be saved from cutting one penny of spending from any account, and could possibly leverage more tax increases in exchange for letting them off easy with defense spending cuts.
A free $2.1 debt limit increase in exchange for nothing but defense cuts and possible leverage to raise taxes…..sounds like a nice plan, doesn’t it?
In 2011, Republicans went along with this insane plan. As a result, we burned through the $2.1 trillion in new debt in just 17 months. We actually increased spending during that time period. Now the time to pay the infinitesimal price of spending cuts has come due. Conservatives decided to draw a line in the sand and not fall into Obama’s trap. While we don’t like the fact that 50% of the cuts will come from the most important part of the budget, which only represents 20% of total outlays, we will not pass up an opportunity to cut non-defense discretionary spending; nor will we be suckered into more tax hikes.
Before it became clear to Obama that conservatives were willing to stand on principle even in the face of defense cuts, he actually threatened to veto any repeal of the sequester. Now that we are calling his bluff, he is saying the world will come to an end if we don’t repeal it. The reality is that Obama couldn’t care less about defense. All he cares about is the non-defense spending. The federal budget sans base defense spending is roughly $3 trillion. A $42.7 billion cut is approximately 1.4% of the rest of the federal budget. If you can’t handle a 1.4% cut off your record high baseline after concocting this plan in exchange for your debt limit increase, you are nothing but a coward, Mr. President.
This needs to be the message emanating from Republicans. Instead of buying into Obama’s message of doom, Republicans need to pocket this victory. They should let the American people know that they are willing to let go of their scared cow; now it’s time for Obama to man up and accept his own spending cuts, which are smaller than the defense cuts.
The real concern for conservatives is that too many Republicans are refusing to take yes for an answer, and accept the sequester. Instead, they are trying to fight it, even though most of them voted for it, while squandering their political capital to fight Obamacare in the upcoming continuing resolution. Some “anonymous” aids have already suggested they will never fight the CR.
With such poor messaging over the sequester, as so astutely noted by Byron York, it’s no wonder conservatives like Jim Bridenstine are smelling another capitulation.
Boehner and McConnell need to put out one more statement challenging Obama to keep his word on his own deal, just like they are (hopefully) willing to uphold their end of the deal on defense spending. Then, they must move on and immediately begin assailing Obamacare every day for the next month.
Obama is on the run. Republicans are the only ones who can save him.