The Spectacle Blog

Defense Doomsday and the Debt Deal

By on 8.4.11 | 11:29PM

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns that, while the cuts to the defense budget in the debt ceiling deal should pose little problem, the cuts that go into effect if the deficit-reduction recommendations of the so-called super committee are not passed by Congress in December -- the "triggers" that Panetta calls the "doomsday mechanism" -- "would damage our national defense."

Phil Klein writes that Republicans are in denial about the likelihood that, because of the triggers, the super committee could force Republicans to choose between tax hikes and draconian defense cuts. In response to Phil's column, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Florida) tweeted last night: "One other option, by majorities, void the post-trigger cuts. Who ISN'T going to vote to protect Med & Defense?" (By "Med" he means Medicare -- abbreviated to fit Twitter's 140-character limit -- which is also affected by the triggers.)

It's a really interesting point. Deficit reduction plans cooked up by committees (like the plan presented last year by the Simpson-Bowles commission) tend to be DOA when they hit Congress. It's just really difficult to put together a plan that can pass both houses, especially when they're controlled by different parties. The super committee is supposed to be different because of the triggers, which are meant to be so onerous that they force Congress to accept the super committee's recommendations. But Congress, of course, has the power to change the law. The politics of doing so after making a public commitment to deficit reduction would depend on what the super committee produces (which is in turn dependent on which representatives and senators are on the super committee), but it's something to watch for in the coming months, particularly given that Panetta's statement puts the administration firmly against letting the triggers get pulled.

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