Morning Examiner: Can Republicans pass the sequester spending test?

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

President Obama has a new favorite Republican on Capitol Hill and his name is Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla. While the rest of the House Republicans are standing firm against Obama’s relentless drive to hike taxes, Rooney signaled Tuesday that he is ready to surrender, telling Politico he “would rather have tax increases than cut our defense.”

Yesterday, outgoing-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stepped up the pressure on conservatives by threatening to cut active duty military pay if Republicans refused to hike taxes. Why any conservative would ever even consider giving in to such blatant hostage tactics is a complete mystery.

Fortunately, Rooney seems to be the only Republican willing to cave. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who was one of the few Republicans who said Obama should be allowed to end the Bush tax cuts, has firmly rejected any new tax hikes this time around. “Anything that involves higher taxes is dead on arrival,” he told reporters Tuesday. “This needs to be taken care of with spending cuts. If it’s not, it can just be the sequester as written.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who voted against the Budget Control Act because of the sequester cuts, has also declined to endorse Obama’s tax hikes. “There’s a reason a few of us voted against it, and it wasn’t just to say we voted against it,” Hunter told Politico. “It’s because once this thing starts, there’s no stopping it. And that’s exactly what’s happened now.”

Fans of small government hope Hunter is right. Mercatus Center General Director Tyler Cowen blogged Monday, “I would view the sequestration as a kind of referendum on whether we are ever capable of cutting or restraining spending and I fear not.”

Rooney appears to be Cowen’s worst nightmare.

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In Other News
The Washington Post, Sen. Menendez contacted top officials in friend’s Medicare dispute: Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday.
The Hill, Rubio to deliver GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12.The New York Times, Congress to See Memo Backing Drone Attacks on Americans: The White House on Wednesday directed the Justice Department to release to the two Congressional Intelligence Committees classified documents discussing the legal justification for killing, by drone strikes and other means, American citizens abroad who are considered terrorists.
The Los Angeles Times, U.S. drone use could set dangerous example for rogue powers: Newly disclosed U.S. guidelines on drone warfare appear to authorize a more permissive practice of targeted killings in the global fight against terrorism than previously articulated. And the Obama administration’s embrace of a right to strike those it has identified as threats to U.S. security has prompted warnings from rights advocates and international security experts that the White House is setting a dangerous precedent that rogue nations could follow.
The New York Times, Two-Tax Rise Tests Wealthy in California: With the new year, big earners are confronting a 51.9 percent federal-state income tax hit on earnings over $1 million, the result of a confluence of new tax-the-rich levies imposed by California and Congress in the closing days of 2012. That is officially the highest in the nation. And at 13.3 percent, the top-tier California income tax is, in addition to being higher than any other state, the steepest it has been since World War II.

Lefty Playbook
Froma Harrop says things are going great in California.
Kevin Drum argues that support for amnesty is paper thin.
Think Progress claims amnesty will not increase government spending.

Righty Playbook
John Merline notes that the 10-year cost of ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies has already increased 29 percent.
Jillian Kay Melchior on California’s never ending thirst for higher taxes.
David French explains why the Military Can and Should Target American Members of Al-Qaeda.

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