As sequestration begins, Republicans have been overtaken with something close to giddiness, and Democrats seized with gloom. It appeared as recently as a few months ago that the threat of across-the-board cuts, disproportionately hurting defense, would force Republicans to negotiate a long-term debt reduction agreement. But Republicans are happily announcing their willingness –and, in many cases, outright eagerness -- to absorb a hit to spending of any kind whatsoever, and their total resistance to higher revenue in any form. And so the GOP is already celebrating its victory, even speaking of their great triumph in the past tense, as a done deal (“This was a necessary win for Republicans,” exults a GOP aide) while liberals are already bemoaning Obama’s miscalculation.
The great Republican budget victory may yet arrive. It certainly hasn’t happened yet, and it’s far from certain it ever will.
The first question is whether House Republicans can sustain their refusal to consider their no-revenue, no-negotiation stance. Public opinion may not be the thing that stops them. Americans oppose government spending in general and favor it in particular. An ABC poll today finds strong public support for an across-the-board cut in federal spending. That is the result you’d expect from a poll that only asks about “federal spending.”
A couple of points should be made here:
1) The general public, despite the ABC poll Chait references, hold the Republicans responsible for the sequester. (Note the source.)
2) As I've pointed out on a couple of occasions, the sequester could be -- and probably is -- a sop to the Teabaggers to shut them up now that we've come to brass tacks.
3) The essential point to make here is a question you should ask your conservative friends: Can you name five government programs that you like? If you can get a straight answer, you'll find that opposition to tax hikes actually collapses once people look at the details.
But I digress. Back to the political trenches.
Weaker Boener is in a bind. You see, when he first agreed to the sequester back in 2011, he had to do yeoman work to persuade defense contractors that cuts to the DoD budget would never go through, that Republicans would find a way to exempt them.
And indeed, they tried. Indeed, Weaker Boener rolled out a small-beer budget proposal yesterday that would restore defense spending to its pre-sequester levels.
Of course, it will never pass the Senate, and may not pass the House given the intractable nature of Boener's herded cats.
Put it this way: When Lindsey Graham is calling for tax hikes to pay for defense, you've got a lot of ground to catch up!
So, to sum up, the GOP have won a gift battle against the Great Muslin Overlord, and are woefully unprepared for the vultures about to pick at their bones.