Republicans to Blame for Impending Defense Cuts
Earlier this week, Mitt Romney denounced the president’s “radical cuts” to the military. Republican Sens. John McCain (AZ), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Lindsey Graham (SC) are launching a road show to attack the president for automatic defense spending cuts set to take effect January 1, 2013 — cuts that would still leave defense spending above 2006 levels.
The only problem with their argument? Republicans — including those three senators — are directly responsible for these cuts and they will only have themselves to blame if the cuts go into effect come January.
Let’s take a closer look at how Republicans put these cuts into place.
- MAY 9, 2011: Boehner Gets The Ball Rolling
After taking the full faith and credit of the United States (and basically the entire economy along with it) hostage, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) set out the GOP’s demands. He said any tax increases were “off the table” and, for the very first time in history, demanded that the increase in the nation’s borrowing limit be accompanied by spending cuts of equal or greater size.
(Almost a year to the day later, Boehner made the same set of demands regarding the next debt ceiling increase, due in early 2013.)
- SUMMER 2011: GOP’s Manufactured Crisis Kicks Economy While It’s Down
The acrimonious negotiations with Republicans over the summer spooked financial markets, particularly as many Republicans began to openly advocate for defaulting on our nation’s obligations. Mitt Romney and dozens of other Republicans even signed a pledge explicitly calling for default unless Congress passed a Balanced Budget Amendment — a near impossibility.
As just these two charts show, the GOP’s manufactured crisis had a very negative impact on the economy:
- SUMMER 2011: Boehner Walks Away From a Grand Bargain — Twice
President Obama was pursuing a grand bargain $4 TRILLION that would have included spending cuts, changes to entitlements, and a relatively modest amount of new tax revenue — revenue that would’ve come from closing loopholes, not raising tax rates. In private, Boehner agreed to such a deal — twice, but got yanked back into line by an extreme Republican caucus in thrall to the Tea Party and lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
The second time he walked away from a deal, Boehner even refused to take a phone call from the president. At the time, President Obama had this to say of Boehner:
“At some point, I think if you want to be a leader, then you’ve got to lead.”
- AUGUST 2, 2011: Republicans Vote En Masse for Deal Including Defense Cuts
On the brink of a first-ever national default, Republicans finally agreed to a deal. The Budget Control Act, as it was known, specified the following:
- A multi-stage increase in the debt ceiling
- Spending cuts of $972 BILLION over ten years
- The creation of a so-called Congressional “Super Committee,” which was to find additional deficit reduction through cuts or revenue increases of up to $1.5 TRILLION. Any deal would’ve been subject to expedited consideration, could not have been filibuster, and would not have been subject to amendment.
- If the Super Committee failed to agree to a deal, then $1.2 TRILLION over ten years in automatic cuts (split evenly during the first two years between defense and domestic discretionary spending) would take effect on January 1, 2013.
This deal — which explicitly included the potential for automatic cuts to defense — received overwhelming support from Republicans. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and 169 other House Republicans — fully 72 percent of House Republicans — voted for the deal. By contrast, only 95 Democrats — exactly half — voted for it. On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Whip Kyl (R-AZ), Senate Armed Service Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) and 26 other Senate Republicans voted for the deal.
- OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2011: Republicans Put Millionaires Before Military, Torpedoing Super Committee
Republicans refused to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, guaranteeing that the Super Committee would fail and the automatic cuts would kick in. Here’s a look at the numerous very generous offers that Republicans refused to accept:
October 26, 2011: Democrats first super committee offer is $3 trillion in deficit reduction comprised of about $1.3 trillion in revenues and $1.7 trillion in spending cuts, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Republicansimmediately reject it. Republicans’ first super committee offer is $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction, which includes no new tax revenues.
November 8, 2011: Republicans’ second super committee offer is $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. It does include $300 billion in new tax revenue, but in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts and lowering the top tax rate. The plan would ultimately cut taxes for the wealthy and raise them for everyone else.
November 10, 2011: Democrats’ second offer is $2.3 trillion in deficit reduction, consisting of $1.3 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in revenue. The revenue would be split between $350 billion in concrete measures and $650 billion in future tax reform. Republicans reject it.
November 11, 2011: Democrats agree to Republicans’ top lines including just $400 billion in revenues and $875 billion in spending cuts, but refuse to accept the GOP’s tax cut for the rich. Republicans reject it and make their final offer: $640 billion in spending cuts and $3 billion in revenues.
What this timeline shows is just how much Democrats have been willing to bend, only to have Republicans reject very generous offers. Back in June, Democrats reportedly offered a mere $400 billion in tax increases as part of a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction package — a 83:17 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Republicans said no to making millionaires pay more and said yes (again) to automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs.
Where We Stand Today
What’s clear is that Republicans walked away from numerous opportunities to agree to a balanced deal that would have canceled the deep cuts to defense spending and important domestic programs. The president has made equally clear that he doesn’t want these cuts to take effect either, but a deal is a deal and unless Republicans come to the table with a serious offer, the cuts will go into effect. There’s still plenty of time for Republicans to agree to a balanced approach and prevent these cuts from taking place.
IN ONE SENTENCE: If Republicans stopped putting millionaires ahead of the military, we could have a deal today to stop automatic cuts to defense and vital domestic programs.