Going Back on the Budget Control Deal – Take II
Back in May, congressional Republicans took a run at reversing the outcome of a deal they agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The deal they struck back in August 2011 was that if Congress didn’t come up with at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, there would be across-the-board cuts in January 2013, equally split between security and non-security programs. They call it “sequestration,” and now it seems to have them frightened out of their wits.
“This sequestration does one simple thing: It takes the Army and Marine Corps down to a 1940′s level,” said Rep. Allen West (R-FL), during floor debate last week. “It puts 200,000 of our men and women in uniform on the streets. It makes our United States Navy go to 1915 levels.”
Rather than go back to the era of “Kilroy Was Here,” back in May House Republicans tried to reverse the sequestration spending cuts in the bill that authorizes spending on the Department of Defense, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
That bill hasn’t passed, so now they’re trying again.
Last week, the House passed H.R. 6365, the National Security and Job Protection Act. Sounds essential, doesn’t it? What it would do is … nothing, really—that’s why it’s cost is nothing. But it sets things up so that, if Congress passes legislation to reduce spending in other areas, the sequestration cuts slated for the military would go away.
That would increase spending by about $72 billion over 2013-2022 relative to current law. That’s about $600 per U.S. family. It could end up being $97 billion in spending, or about $800 per family.
The thing is, the spending cuts would come out of programs that Democrats generally like. They say that the Republican plan “shreds the safety net for vulnerable Americans, denying hundreds of thousands of low-income children, women, seniors, and other Americans the vital assistance that helps them make it from day to day.”
Democrats say they also want to stop the cuts, but their priorities are different. They would raise taxes and cut farm payments. Their plan wasn’t allowed debate time on the House floor last week.
Military spending is important, but Republicans are over-dramatizing the effect of the pending cuts. Democrats are likewise over-dramatizing the effects of cuts in spending programs that the Republicans propose.
Maybe if the deadlock over how to stop sequestration continues, we’ll see what Republicans and Democrats agreed to when they passed the Budget Control Act in the first place. They did, after all, pass the bill that was going to produce these spending cuts. It shouldn’t be too horrifying for them if the outcome they agreed to in an earlier law actually come to pass.