It seems each day brings a new twist or solution to address sequestration, the automatic budget cuts set to trigger in January. While the Pentagon has been uniform in its message that sequestration would be a disaster for the military, politicians are of mixed minds. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) have indicated they think sequestration is a helpful tool they are happy to employ as leverage in forcing the Republican Party to agree to tax increases.
Leading Republicans are increasingly indicating a willingness to make that deal. Most recently, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) indicated he supports tax reform to help stave off sequestration’s negative impact on the military.
But like the terrible debt ceiling deal that produced a result only conservatives could hate (tax hikes or more defense cuts), any sequestration “fix” that is part of a larger deal on tax increases will again trap Republicans. That’s because there are still many more defense dollar cuts to come beyond the $487 billion agreed to in the Budget Control Act. So in order to avoid sequestration, conservatives are going to agree to increase taxes—yet even this will not protect the defense budget from more cuts.
SASC Chairman Levin said as much earlier this week at the National Press Club. He argued that the Defense Department could absorb an additional $100 billion in spending cuts over the next 9 years above the $487 billion agreed to last August. This would bring the military’s total tab closer to $600 billion in debt reduction contributions.
The final number is not yet known, but the point is that many more members of Congress want to see more defense budget cuts beyond the $487 billion. Only in Washington would the “fix” to sequestration include additional defense cuts, but that is the very likely outcome of any revised deal.