Political Animal


February 07, 2013 4:43 PM Sequester Hawks

By Ed Kilgore

It’s kind of ironic that a Republican Party allegedly horrified by Chuck Hagel’s openness to defense spending cuts is allegedly girding up its loins to accept—nay, even insist—on an immediate five percent reduction in defense spending (which will be a lot higher in some accounts) via the scheduled appropriations sequester of March 1.

Major Garrett, who knows these birds a lot better than I do, says they are serious about it:

Tea-party-inspired conservatives now say the only thing worse than defense cuts is no cuts at all. Increasingly, GOP rank and file are nodding in agreement. And GOP leaders now see sequester as the only point of leverage and accountability for Obama. If he wants to replace spending cuts with higher taxes, Republicans will fight that battle—and prefer it to clashes over default or a government shutdown. Obama owns the sequester as much as Republicans, and enforcing what is (spending cuts in law) beats fighting over what might be (default or shutdown).
House and Senate Republicans are closer on this approach than they’ve ever been. They want to make Obama sweat the sequester, and part of that is gamely holding a poker face that they can absorb the political fallout from deep defense cuts and other government-wide spending restraint (even if it means reducing the number of Border Patrol agents, food inspectors, and air-traffic controllers). And if Obama wants to avert these cuts, he will have to offer alternatives more palatable to Republicans (see: Shrugged, Atlas).

Democrats aren’t real crazy about the likely economic impact of a sequester, or the overtly stupid, ham-handed way it would operate. But there’s something to be said in the long run for forcing Republicans to choose, finally, between their small-government rhetoric and their lust for Big Stick foreign policies and “Kill ‘em All” attitudes towards enemies real and imagined.

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.


  • Michael Robinson on February 07, 2013 5:44 PM:

    (see: Patch, Briar)

  • c u n d gulag on February 07, 2013 5:59 PM:

    While I'm not at all a fan of big military spending, the problem is, too may Congressianal districts have too many jobs involved for them to risk letting military spending be lowered that far, that fast.

    I'd be all for incremental decreases over the next decade, that amount in total to over 30-50%, or more, but to start cutting without planning and ways to re-train and hire those workers for other jobs, is exactly what the Conservatives want - a guaranteed way to worsen the nations economy for their own political benefit.

    As much as Obama has the Republicans between a rock and a hard place in this, and many other areas, it'll be interesting to see how he plays this bluff by Republicans.
    If he can use the money "sequestered" from the military, and use that for a quiet stimulus program, then GO TO IT.
    If not, imo, he and the Democrats will need to carefully consider how they handle this Republican bluff.

  • Joe Friday on February 07, 2013 8:33 PM:

    Garrett: "Obama owns the sequester as much as Republicans"

    Isn't that what the Republicans said about the so-called 'fiscal cliff', that turned into 'the Republicans want to push America over a cliff' ?

    Only the minority RightWing blamed Obama.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on February 07, 2013 8:38 PM:

    If Republicans want to cut off their noses to spite their faces, I say hand them the knife.

  • Dana on February 08, 2013 8:04 AM:

    Republicans will never have to make that choice, because (unlike most citizens who vote Democratic), Democratic members of both the Legislative and Executive branches favor the "big stick" and "kill 'em all" approach just as voraciously as do the Republicans. This has been evident for all to see since the vote on the second Iraq war. Didn't you get the *memo*?

  • boatboy_srq on February 08, 2013 9:18 AM:

    Let's see what happens when those defense cuts hit Teahadist districts in places like Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere, when servicepeople get sent home from Ramstein and Baghram and Okinawa, and places where the MilInd complex builds weapons and equipment suddenly lose work. I want to hear how fiscal austerity and cutting the deficit is a good thing for all the troops that are suddenly furloughed on his/her doorstep and all the businesses in his/her area that had their contracts downscaled or cancelled. The Teahad needs a really good argument for stopping all that work if they want to keep their Strong on Defense creds, and "we're broke" won't cut it.

    More popcorn, please.

  • Tomm Undergod on February 08, 2013 11:28 AM:

    Right on, boatboy_srq! If the bastards want defense cuts, give them defense cuts. Start with downsizing as many bases as possible -- in GOPig districts -- and then cancel as many mfgr contracts as possible that go to the same red state takers. They made their beds, let them try to lie their way out.