Unlike the debt limit and fiscal cliff negotiations that came before it, the sequester is not getting much coverage. That’s not a reflection of its importance. After all, we’re talking about deep, across-the-board cuts to our military as well as targeted cuts to certain domestic social programs. It’s a reflection of the underlying politics.
Whereas the media could frame Republicans as the chief instigators and agitators of the previous potential fiscal crises (even though that’s a wrongheaded and boneheaded view), President Obama is the architect of the sequester. It was his White House who proposed the blunt sword of indiscriminate military cuts in an ill-fated attempt to get the Deficit Supercommittee to come to an agreement. And it’s now his White House who will bear the shame (and if there’s any justice, blame) if the sequester goes into effect.
With the media uncharacteristically quiet about the whole ordeal Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby sought to shed some light on the issue in this week’s Republican address.
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama himself admitted that these cuts were a ‘really bad idea,’ said Roby. “What the President failed to mention was that the sequester was his idea, proposed by his administration. . .”
But Roby’s address wasn’t about assigning blame, it was about getting Democrats to come to the table to discuss a solution.
“There is a smarter way to reduce the size of government than to slash defense spending, threaten national security and hurt military families. In fact, the Republican-led House has already voted twice to replace the president’s sequester with targeted spending cuts passed on real budget priorities.
Unfortunately, the Democrats-run Senate never acted on either bill. And, as the clock is ticking towards his devastating sequester, the President has failed to put forward a plan to prevent it.”
Rather than actually put pen-to-paper and come up with a solution Democrats have instead—as they always do—attempted to simply point the finger at Republicans, demanding tax hikes all the while.
Last week, President Obama issued a directive to Congress to delay the mandatory spending reductions and replace them with tax hikes and unspecified cuts to domestic programs. Ever the loyal lapdogs, Senate Democrats have finally – 18 months after the passage of the sequester – come up with a plan. It begs the question, what have they been doing all this time? We know it wasn’t time they spent devoted to crafting a budget.
Nevertheless, after much, uh, ruminating Senate Democrats released a plan (though not a bill) to replace the sequester’s cuts with $55 billion in tax hikes and $55 billion in cuts, half of which would still come from the Defense Department.
This type of blackmail isn’t just unacceptable, explains Roby, it’s dangerous.
“President Obama and Senate Democrats see his sequester as an opportunity to push through another tax increase,” Roby said in the Republican address. “[I]t is a shame that our Commander-in-Chief is using the military he leads as leverage in an ideological crusade for higher taxes. These games have to stop.”
Score another one for the Rahm Emanuel school of “never let a good crisis go to waste.” This time with Obama adding his own twist – having creating the crisis himself.
But this is not a game. Our military commanders testified just last week that the fiscal uncertainty would “significantly and rapidly degrade Army readiness.” The chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff separately said that the defense cuts would “severely limit our ability to implement our defense strategy.” And that’s to say nothing of the harmful effect it would have on military families.
That’s an unacceptable scenario. So are tax hikes. That’s why Republicans have put forward a plan to replace the sequester with targeted cuts to some of the most wasteful programs in the federal government like, as Roby mentions, giving people free cell phones. Democrats, including President Obama should put aside partisanship and get behind that plan.