Political Animal


January 30, 2013 4:30 PM Sequester Versus Budgeting

By Ed Kilgore

While there’s growing pessimism over Congress being able to reach any sort of agreement to avoid the scheduled March 1 “sequester” of appropriations, that’s not to say the two parties will necessarily bear equal blame. The one thing that is as absolute as the sun rising in the east is that Republicans, particularly in the House, will not agree to any new revenues in a deal to cancel or mitigate the sequester. Democrats have a considerable range of freedom in orbiting that fixed point, and TPM’s Brian Beutler suggests a message that will come from Harry Reid and company:

Perhaps the parties can’t agree on a complete sequester replacement. But they can pay it down for a few months with popular cuts and revenue raisers, including by eliminating tax subsidies for oil companies.
“[T]here’s a lot of things we can do out there, and we’re going to make an effort to make sure that … sequestration involves revenue,” Reid added. “Remember, the American people still believe, by an overwhelming margin, that the rich should contribute to this. They believe that Medicare shouldn’t be whacked. They believe domestic discretionary spending has been hit very hard already. They believe that there could be a better way of dealing with defense than this meat cleaver that sequestration does.”
This is another way of saying the Democrats will attempt to clarify both the stakes and the parties’ positions to voters and incumbent interests — to signal to voters that Republicans would rather cut spending on programs for the poor than raise even a small amount of revenue by ending subsidies for oil companies; and to signal to the defense industry leaders that their long-time GOP allies will abandon them rather than tax oil companies even a little bit. In fact, Republicans’ position amounts to telling defense contractors that they’ll happily threaten their profits unless Democrats agree to cut social insurance programs.

More generally, this posture positions Democrats as wanting to make actual decisions about spending and taxes instead of allowing brain-dead across-the-board cuts take place to achieve arbitrary deficit reduction targets. Would that argument be compelling? Republicans must think so, since they’ve spent an enormous amount of time and money drawing attention to the Democratic-controlled Senate’s refusal to pass a budget resolution in recent years.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 30, 2013 4:47 PM:

    Everything going on in DC right now, is Kabuki.

    With the Republicans looking for some way to say the lack of any progress on anything is the fault of the Democrats, to try to absolve themselves of any blame - trying to pass it off on the Democrats.

    From the Democrats side, I think what President Obama and members of Congress, are trying to do, is keep the pressure on the Republicans, hoping that they continue to retreat and fracture.
    So far, they've made them cave on the "Fiscal Cliff," and raised taxes.
    They punted on the "Debt Ceiling" for a few months.
    And now, the pressure is on them, because President Obama made immigration reform a priority.
    Also too - gun safety.

    Bobo wrote about forming a second, more rational, GOP.
    THAT, ain't gonna happen.

    What the Democrats are trying to do, I think, is to make the Republicans splinter into 3 parts:
    The handful of remaining slightly rational actors.
    The status quo nitwits.
    And, the uber-right crazies.

    And the hope, again, imo, is that the uber-righties splinter off, form a 3rd Party, and primary Congressional Republicans in 2014, and then, the Republican Presidential candidate, in 2016.

    This will, in effect, destroy the Republican Party in national elections.

    What we may be seeing, and living through, is what happened to The Whig Party, from the mid to late 1840's until the Republican Party became a national power in the late 1850's.

    That party, quickly became a national force.
    The new 3rd Party splinter group, probably called the "Liberty," or "Patriot," party, since Tea Party now has a stench around it, will remain a fairly minor rump party. But it can serve to keep Republicans from winning on a national level for years.

    Them's my $0.02's.

    Of course, things may change, so, who can really tell?

  • kindness on January 30, 2013 4:52 PM:

    C'mon. You are expecting Senate Republicans to be reasonable? I have a bridge to sell you.

    If anything Republicans will eliminate Defense cuts and try to load it all on the Social programs because that is what they do. That is all they do and forget about tax increases from them.

    I'm just hoping there aren't enough Blue Dog Democrats to work with Republicans. We will see the sequestration cuts.

  • Ronald on January 30, 2013 4:55 PM:

    The Republicans in the House will fold like a cheap suit, like they did with the debt fight. It doesn't take a whole lot of 'we're going to turn your money spigot off' from the Defense Industry to get the message across to reticent Congresspeoples that they need to get shit done.
    Not like they're going to listen to the American people...God forbid.

  • boatboy_srq on January 30, 2013 4:56 PM:

    @CUND: So, we're looking at a GOP split between the 10%, the 63% and the 27%. That's not especially comforting.


    I'm wondering how long it will be before the Dems come back to the table with the idea of outsourcing half the DoD as a cost saving measure. All that maintenance cost, public sector employment, general overhead - all gone, instantly, to the private sector. We'd soon see how long the Blackwater-du-jour manages to maintain operational standards when they have a CVN or a fleet of F-22s to maintain.

  • Alan on January 30, 2013 7:34 PM:

    In the end, the voters in 2014 and history will hold President Obama and the democrats fully responsible for the state of the economy. The 2011 Budget Control Act was passed by the House and Senate with President's signature. In the near future, annual interest payments of $1,000,000,000,000 or more will be due. With Fitch's downgrade threat, our children will bear the responsibility of our fiscal irresponsibility. As the Fed is priming the pump and still maintains some credibility, now is the time for a little tough love; Krugman be damned

  • exlibra on January 30, 2013 7:57 PM:

    Alan, @7:34 PM: damn Krugman and his opinions all you want, but not before I see your Nobel Prize in economics.

  • John on January 30, 2013 10:16 PM:

    If the Republicans don't want to agree to an alternative package that includes revenue increases, why not, I don't know, just cancel the fucking sequester without paying for it? Why is this not even part of the debate? Given that the sequester is an artificial crisis caused by nonsense, why not just avoid it entirely? Can we at least bring this up as a possibility?

  • Anonymous on January 31, 2013 12:15 AM:

    They scream about the deficit but they are actually getting deficits cut.

    so can they please move on and talk about the American Job Act again?
    infrastructure spending?
    the deficit is not a problem right now. weak growth is.
    the debt will be problem in 10 years, not now.

    We just learned today that the last quarter's economy shrunk to -0.1% for the first time since 2009. that is a bit scary.
    I dearly hope that it's temporary from the fiscal cliff uncertainty but it is thought be caused by because of fiscal tightening.

    if we go ahead and cut deficits more and more as federal government kept doing over the last 2 years without off-set stimulus, we might go back into another recession. we are half way there.

    the media and other journalists and democrats paid uneven attention to republicans' overblown worries over the current deficits while economists like paul krugman kept warning against austerity.

    but gosh, look what people said about paul krugman on morning joe?
    "he is as bad as climate change denier??"

    he never denies the need for debt cut in the future. he just disagrees with TIMING!!! so frustrating to see the rich, comfortable pundits and writers preaching while they ignore the current unemployed.