by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Does the refusal of congressional Republicans to bow to President Obama’s campaign-style bloviation about sequestration signal a new willingness to stand up for fiscal restraint, regardless of short-term political consequences? Jim McTague, author of Barron’s “D.C. Current” column, thinks not.
It would be better for the markets, which crave certainty, if Congress would try living with the sequester’s spending slowdown, rather than caving in to President Barack Obama’s arm-twisting by voting to kick the can down the road again. There are multiple signs, however, that rank-and-file Republicans will cry “uncle” in the face of the president’s shrill, anti-budget-cut scare campaign. Look for the beginnings of a deal with GOP defectors around March 27, when both sides will vote on a bill authorizing spending levels for the rest of the year.
Obama’s gambit is to buy time for both parties to craft a “balanced” deficit-reduction package. The sequestration law, which mandates automatic cuts in the discretionary and defense budgets through 2021, would be rolled back until 2014. The cuts mandated by the law in 2013 would be replaced with a 30% “Buffett Tax” on millionaires, reductions in farm subsidies, and $27 billion in defense cuts. The GOP leadership, which gave Obama a revenue increase in January, is adamant that it won’t support another tax hike. However, the party’s leaders have no firm grip on their troops.
SIGNS OF REPUBLICAN WEAKNESS are plentiful. At the recent winter meeting of the National Governor’s Association, in Washington, D.C., Republicans didn’t invite their congressional leadership to address them. Instead, several GOP governors went on television to criticize the leadership for failing to sit down with Obama and work out a compromise. In other words, GOP governors were running away from the Republican members of Congress.
Some GOP congressmen also are distancing themselves from their party’s leadership. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is pitching his own compromise to Obama with $600 billion in new revenue in return for entitlement cuts. Obama says he is willing to reduce social programs, even if this angers his own party. But ever the fox, he refuses to reveal specifics.