While some Republicans are wary of giving President Obama the flexibility to implement sequestration at his discretion, two of the most libertarian senators in the party agree that Congress should make him allocate the spending cuts more efficiently than current law requires.
“Allowing the president the flexibility to move money around? I think it’s a good idea,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told The Washington Examiner after the Republican Steering Committee debated the issue during a members-only meeting in the Capitol. “The thing is, I think he’s using scare tactics and emotionalism and really he needs to make some wise decisions. We need to give him the power to not make those decisions.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., agreed. “It’s really the president’s job to manage [sequestration],” Johnson, who describes himself as an Ayn Rand Republican, said in an interview after the GOP meeting. “[T]o manage it efficiently, effectively, to create as little disruption [with] the least amount of pain as opposed to the approach he’s taken, [with] the maximum amount of pain.”
The Examiner reported last week that Senate Republicans were mulling the proposal, but the House is concerned about giving such authority to Obama.
“We don’t want to cede any type of authority to the administration in terms of how the sequester is applied,” said one GOP aide familiar with leadership conversations said in an interview. “There’s no precedent [to make us think] that he’s going to do it responsibly.”
Johnson said that the flexibility proposal puts Obama in a political bind. “What could be more reasonable?” he asked. “Hey, listen, you’re the manager; you’re the CEO; you’re the executive; you ran for president. Congress establishes the spending limitations. He signed it. He signed the bill into law. Now it’s up to him to manage it efficiently and effectively and we’re trying to give him the maximum flexibility to do that.”
Paul said that Obama doesn’t want the flexibility proposal to pass “because he wants to use it as a campaign issue; he doesn’t know how to stop campaigning.”
Obama attacked the proposal at a campaign-style rally yesterday. “You don’t want to have to choose between, let’s see, do I close funding for the disabled kid, or the poor kid?” the president told Virginians. “Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one? When you’re doing things in a way that’s not smart, you can’t gloss over the pain and the impact it’s going to have on the economy.”