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November 21, 2011 10:10 AM GOP demands an end to their own idea

By Steve Benen

Remember the “triggers” in the debt-ceiling agreement? Let’s take a moment to refresh the political world’s memory.

Congressional Republicans, in a move without precedent in American history, were holding the economy and the full faith and credit of the United States hostage. Democrats, fearful that the GOP wasn’t bluffing and that the nation would pay a severe price, was willing to cut a bad deal: $900 billion in debt reduction, on top of another $1.2 trillion agreement to be worked out by a so-called super-committee.

But Dems weren’t completely willing to roll over — they wanted to create an incentive for Republicans to work in good faith on the $1.2 trillion in savings. Democrats proposed the threat of automatic tax increases to push GOP officials to be responsible, but Republicans refused and offered an alternative: if the committee failed, the GOP would accept $600 billion in defense cuts and Dems would accept $600 billion in non-defense domestic cuts.

Remember, the point was to create an incentive that the parties would be desperate to avoid. Pentagon cuts were Republicans’ contribution to the process. These cuts were their idea.

And wouldn’t you know it, Republicans don’t like their idea anymore.

Failure by Congress’ debt-cutting supercommittee to recommend $1.2 trillion in savings by Wednesday is supposed to automatically trigger spending cuts in the same amount to accomplish that job.

But the same legislators who concocted that budgetary booby trap just four months ago could end up spending the 2012 election year and beyond battling over defusing it.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., say they are writing legislation to prevent what they say would be devastating cuts to the military. House Republicans are exploring a similar move.

This isn’t exactly surprising, but it is kind of amusing. Republicans, in effect, said in August, “If we fail, we’ll accept these cuts we don’t want.” The same Republicans, in effect, are now saying, “It turns out, we don’t like our idea anymore.”

In the bigger picture, Republicans were never working in good faith. Even putting aside the inherently disgusting debt-ceiling crisis they created over the summer, GOP officials were willing to offer the defense-cut trigger precisely because they knew they’d try to kill it after the super-committee inevitably failed.

Republicans started this fight demanding debt reduction, then offered massive spending cuts to a part of the government they care about. They’re now demanding less debt reduction and more government spending — and if Democrats balk, these same Republicans will spend an election year accusing them of being anti-military.

I often wonder what our discourse would be like if the general public knew what GOP officials were up to in Washington.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Mudge on November 21, 2011 10:23 AM:

    At the very least, the domestic cuts should be lowered and the debt ceiling raised again if Democrats are going to agree to rescind the defense cuts.

    I'm betting, however, that the Repugs will get their way and the Democrats will get nothing.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on November 21, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Hence it's our job to explain it to them.

  • r on November 21, 2011 10:28 AM:

    Mudge -- duh! Dems roll over and the Rs keep kicking them.

    Screw teachers and the unemployed, but keep those F-35s coming off the lines!

  • c u n d gulag on November 21, 2011 10:30 AM:

    It must have finally dawned on these Republican assholes that if THEY were the ones who came up with the idea, then it must REALLY F*CKING SUCK!

  • BrklynLibrul on November 21, 2011 10:31 AM:

    My sixth sense tells me that this will end badly for the Dems, i.e. domestic cuts going forward and the defense cuts reinstated. I hope and pray I'm wrong.

  • Kris on November 21, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Republicans acting in bad-faith and opposing their own solutions? This is my shocked face.

  • Grumpy on November 21, 2011 11:05 AM:

    ...GOP officials were willing to offer the defense-cut trigger precisely because they knew they’d try to kill it after the super-committee inevitably failed.

    ...Just as they knew they'd try to make the Bush tax cuts permanent after hiding the long-term deficit impact with a phony sunset clause.

  • Chris on November 21, 2011 11:25 AM:

    ...if Democrats balk, these same Republicans will spend an election year accusing them of being anti-military.

    The last poll I saw indicated that Americans support military cuts to reduce deficits. In addition, Leon Panetta notwithstanding, $600 billion over ten years isn't that much to a bloated military-industrial complex.

    Rather than cowering in fear of GOP talking points, Dems should come up with their own talking points for achange. If they did so, they should have no trouble convincing Americans, most of whom are already on their side, that we can't afford a cold-war military that manufacturers obsolete weapons systems just because.

  • FelisPantherus on November 21, 2011 11:57 AM:

    AN excellent system of governement is only as good as those voted in. Impeach all of them, they're all crap, and get voters to look at actually checking out their officials before giving them the power to represent them. Nothing will change until the people pull their collective heads out.

  • JW on November 21, 2011 12:06 PM:

    "I often wonder what our discourse would be like if the general public knew what GOP officials were up to in Washington".

    I wonder the same about American journalism. What would this country be like if it functioned as it both could, and should?

  • RepublicanPointOfView on November 21, 2011 12:18 PM:

    I often wonder what our discourse would be like if the general public knew what GOP officials were up to in Washington.

    Fortunately, our corporately owned media will assure that never happens. So keep wondering Benen!

  • bigtuna on November 21, 2011 12:28 PM:

    "In the bigger picture, Republicans were never working in good faith."


    why anyone assumes otherwise is completely baffling to me ....

  • schtick on November 21, 2011 1:45 PM:

    Dear Santa,
    All I want for Christmas is for democrats to grow a spine. I would ask they grow balls, but I'm afraid they would swagger so much they would head to the tealiban side of the aisle and start acting and thinking like them.

  • Angry Dem on November 21, 2011 2:36 PM:

    And the Democrats didn't see this coming? I refuse to believe they are that bloody stupid. The most parsimonious explanation is that they are in on the fix.

  • Doug on November 21, 2011 7:07 PM:

    The next question is: What will Republican/Teabaggers hold hostage THIS time?

  • Stephen Wend on November 21, 2011 9:29 PM:

    That was the Republican end game all along. They may "fight" to avoid the defense cuts but in the end they don't care. They'll hang it on the Dems and the President; just another version of heads I win, tails you lose. They NEVER intended to negotiate in good faith.

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