Had I not missed this op-ed by John Boehner in the Wall Street Journal last night, I would have included it in my column on the sequester. Boehner, like many other Republicans in Congress, isn’t pleased about the looming cuts:
The sequester is a wave of deep spending cuts scheduled to hit on March 1. Unless Congress acts, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will occur this year, with another $1.1 trillion coming over the next decade. There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much—we should be cutting even more—but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it.
By law, the sequester focuses on the narrow portion of the budget that funds the operating accounts for federal agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense. Exempt is most entitlement spending—the large portion of the budget that is driving the nation’s looming debt crisis. Should the sequester take effect, America’s military budget would be slashed nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Border security, law enforcement, aviation safety and many other programs would all have diminished resources.
Boehner and the current crop of House Republicans have fought harder for spending cuts than any Congress since Newt Gingrich accepted the gavel. So why is it that now, when a few measly “cuts” (and they are measly) are finally about to take place, they speak in portentous tones and point the finger at President Obama?
Boehner spends much of the rest of his article exculpating the GOP House. At the end, he tosses the basketball back to the president: “Mr. President, we agree that your sequester is bad policy. What spending are you willing to cut to replace it?” The answer, as Obama told Boehner in their last round of debt negotiations, is none. The president and his Senate allies have no intention of cutting spending unless they’re forced into a corner. Boehner knows this, which means his question is just political posturing.
Politics is life in Washington. But this particular round is worrisome. The GOP has spent years proposing hypothetical spending cuts that haven’t actually happened. Now we have an actual round (however diminutive and poorly targeted) of cuts in the hopper, and the Republican reaction is to fret and blame the president for how people will be affected. But people will be affected by any set of cuts. Will a GOP that reacts thusly to the sequester really have the stomach to reform entitlements? Even after the interest groups start complaining? It’s one thing to propose cuts; it’s another to actually implement them.
A final piece of advice for Speaker Boehner. You say you’re serious about cutting spending. I hear that Reps. Tim Huelskamp and Justin Amash are as well. Perhaps you could consult them?