Earlier on Thursday, Republicans in the Senate filibustered a bill meant to replace the “dreaded” sequester due to take effect today (March 1st). I mentioned to my friends on Facebook that I guess the The GOP didn’t want to stop the sequester. My Republican friends complained that President Obama didn’t want to end the sequester cuts either and offered an out of context video clip from 2011. The actual facts show that Republicans have no incentive to change the sequester because they got exactly what they wanted back in 2011.
Here is a clip of the article I posted on Facebook:
A majority of United States senators voted this afternoon to replace the sequester with a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, but thanks to a Republican filibuster, the legislation was blocked. Fifty-one votes were cast in favor of the measure. (Among the 49 no votes was Harry Reid, who voted no for procedural reasons.)
So playing the false equivalency game common in politics today, a Republican friend of mine said President Obama also didn’t want to change the sequester and as proof he posted a blog article showing a video from 2011 of the President saying he would veto any attempt to change the sequester.
Just like the selective editing in that video, my friend also failed to consider the President’s complete statement in context. Going to the White House website and looking at the complete transcript of Obama’s remarks (backed up by the full video clip (my friend’s link only showed about one minute while the full clip is about 5 minutes)) it is clear the President would consider a replacement that is balanced between cuts and new revenues.
…And part of the law that I signed this summer stated that if Congress could not reach an agreement on the deficit, there would be another $1.2 trillion of automatic cuts in 2013 -– divided equally between domestic spending and defense spending.
One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s going to happen, one way or another. We’ve got $1 trillion locked in, and either Congress comes up with $1.2 trillion, which so far they’ve failed to do, or the sequester kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur that bring in an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
Now, the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a hatchet, and if not, whether Congress is willing to stick to the painful deal that we made in August for the automatic cuts. Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts.
My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one. (Ed. note: here is where the video my friend shared ends…)
We need to keep the pressure up to compromise — not turn off the pressure. The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. That’s exactly what they need to do. That’s the job they promised to do. And they’ve still got a year to figure it out.
Although Congress has not come to an agreement yet, nothing prevents them from coming up with an agreement in the days ahead. They can still come together around a balanced plan. I believe Democrats are prepared to do so. My expectation is, is that there will be some Republicans who are still interested in preventing the automatic cuts from taking place. And, as I have from the beginning, I stand ready and willing to work with anybody that’s ready to engage in that effort to create a balanced plan for deficit reduction.
Here is the complete video so you can see the text matches what he actually said in the press room:
Of course trying to blame Obama for a veto that hasn’t even happened yet is a pretty lame argument. It might be different if Congress actually passed a replacement to give the President a chance to veto but I doubt that will happen. The reason it probably won’t is because the Republicans got exactly what they wanted in 2011 and don’t have an incentive to change it.
The GOP hasn’t even offered a viable replacement as Jed Lewison at Daily Kos reports:
As for the policy substance of the proposals on the table, none of the plans being talked about would actually completely replace the sequester. The Democratic plan would replace one year of it by reducing long-term spending and closing loopholes for high income taxpayers.
The main Senate Republican plan would replace the sequester with the exact same level of spending cuts over the exact same period of time, except it would require President Obama to decide where to make the cuts instead of the 2011 Budget Control Act. That’s really just an effort to gloss over the impact of the sequester, however, and shift the blame to Obama. It faces Democratic opposition as well as GOP opposition.
House Republicans haven’t proposed any plan for replacing the sequester during the current Congress. They did pass a plan last year to replace $315 billion of it with cuts to social insurance programs like food stamps, but that left in place nearly $1 trillion in future sequester cuts, largely to domestic priorities. It barely passed the House in 2012, and with the smaller GOP majority in 2013, it probably couldn’t pass today.
Of course the media is trying to play the blame game so they can find a scapegoat when the first $85 billion in cuts take effect. They haven’t reported the fact that the sequester was exactly what Republicans wanted when the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011.
During an interview after the passage Speaker John Boehner said he got “98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.”
During the negotiations, at the behest of Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, Boehner rejected Obama’s “Grand Bargain” of balanced cuts with new revenues and thus we got the sequester.
In fact, a sequester has been a pet project for Cantor and Ryan with Ryan mentioning sequester on the House floor at least since 2004.
Then in 2011 Ryan went on Sean Hannity’s show to take credit for the sequester being in the deal passed that year:
RYAN: Right, right, that’s a good question. So, $21 billion right away for the first fiscal year. Then it’s about $46, I think, that’s off the top of my head, for the second fiscal year. How much out of defense in the first fiscal year will be $9 billion from what we call the security accounts. That’s not just defense. That’s all security. The Homeland Security, National Security. And then $2 billion to $4 billion the next year. So, the cuts on defense are — were minimized quite a bit by the most recent agreement John Boehner reached. More to the point, how do you bank these cuts? What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money.
And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a supermajority vote. We got that in law. That is here. So, the best way you can actually bank that trillion dollar spending cut is to have legal caps in law which we haven’t had since the 1990s. We now have them. And in the committee, the special committee, is tasked for getting the $1.1 to $1.5 trillion in cuts. Now, this, I’m going to tell you, Sean. We’re not going to raise taxes in this committee. Number one, we’re not gonna put the kind of people on this committee –
HANNITY: Are you on the committee. Are you on this select committee?
RYAN: I don’t know yet. They haven’t been named yet. But we’re not going to put that kind of people on this committee, that are going to, you know, go for a tax increase, number one. Number two, it couldn’t pass the House even if they tried. Number three, the baseline they used, the measuring stick that they use for this committee, makes it really basically impossible to raise taxes, because to raise taxes and get credit for it in this committee, you would have to commit a $3.5 trillion tax increase. The Bush tax cuts go away, the alternative minimum tax kicks in. You wouldn’t get credit for any of that. And then you’d have to raise taxes on top of that, that’s why we think tax increases are a nonstarter.
This whole sequester circus reminds me of the time a co-worker asked me to switch shifts one weekend. If I worked for him on the weekend I should be off then he would work the next weekend I was scheduled to work. Being the nice guy I am, I agreed and I worked the co-worker’s weekend.
The next weekend I was suppose to work I get a phone call at home. My boss tells me I need to come into work. I explain about the switch and my boss tells me the guy called in sick and since he was suppose to cover my shift I had to come in. See he got what he wanted – a weekend off so he had no real incentive to work for me. Calling in sick counted against the guy but no real consequences occurred other than me refusing to help him out when he had the nerve to ask me a few weeks later to switch again.
It’s pretty obvious the GOP has no real incentive to stop the sequester. Speaker Boehner said he got 98% of what he wanted when the agreement was passed in 2011 so his caucus will never compromise to what the President wants – a balance of cuts and new revenues – his stupid Grand Bargain. The fact that Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor have been asking for a sequester for years before 2011 is further proof the GOP has no intention of changing the sequester.
Probably what will happen is Congress will once again kick the can down the road with a continuing resolution like they did in January and we will have this same old battle again in 3 months.