Hard to say how hard Obama is going to push for his Grand Bargain before the election, because he’s having a hard time getting the base as motivated as they were the last time he ran and it would piss working people off in a major way. Remember, the sequester is framed in terms of getting the Republicans to make sacrifices (i.e. tax increases) in exchange for something similar to the Simpson-Bowles chairman’s report (cuts to Medicare and Social Security).
Senate Democrats see no political downside to leaving the issue of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending until after the November elections, as they try to use the cuts as leverage with Republicans to negotiate on tax increases on the wealthy.
“We structured the sequester in a way that would be more comfortable for us than for Republicans,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said, referring to the cuts by their technical name. The cuts, which are set to begin next year, are nearly evenly split between defense and domestic spending but do not affect Democratic priorities, such as Social Security and Medicaid.
“We don’t see the heightened sense of concern as a problem; it could help get Republicans to the negotiating table,” another Senate Democratic aide said. “The sequester could yet fulfill the purpose it was meant to serve.”
Indeed, the sequester, which was part of last August’s debt limit deal, was triggered by the failure of last year’s super committee to reach agreement on a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The threat of such harsh cuts was intended to provide an incentive for House and Senate lawmakers to come up with their own comprehensive plan.
But that didn’t happen, and Republicans have been warning that defense contractors are expected to give layoff notices as a result of the sequester sometime before the elections, a scenario that will be ripe for political saber-rattling.
Republicans disagree that there will be no political fallout for Democrats, noting that President Barack Obama’s re-election strategy includes victories in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio — all of which have military bases that could be affected by the sequester.
“Waiting us out is bad governing,” a Senate GOP aide added. “This is why everyone in America is ready to try someone new” as president.
A senior House GOP aide said, “Playing chicken with America’s national security and the economy is phenomenally irresponsible.”
Imagine. The same gang who had no problem with using the debt ceiling to hold us hostage are calling the Democrats “phenomenally irresponsible.” Excuse me while I spew iced tea all over the keyboard.