At the start of this year, coming off the fiscal cliff deal in which Republicans agreed to allow tax rates to increase on high income Americans, President Obama and his liberal allies held hope that they had finally broken the back of the GOP on taxes and that they would be able to extract even more tax hikes in exchange for avoiding sequestration. But I argued that when it came to sequestration, Republicans finally had the upper hand. Unlike the fiscal cliff, in which taxes were scheduled to go up by $4.5 trillion if noting was done, under sequestration, spending is actually cut if nothing is done.
Though Republicans would prefer to avoid defense cuts, they can (and have) learned to live with them. As I wrote in February, Obama’s “suggestion that Republicans agree to raise taxes again to delay the sequester is laughable — they have zero reason to do it. Either he agrees to spending cuts of an equal amount, or the sequester will kick in.”
Sequestration went into effect nearly two months ago, and Obama had been insisting that he wouldn’t accept any fix that didn’t include higher taxes. But last night, the Democratic Senate voted to provide the FAA with more flexibility on how it spends its money so that airport delays could be avoided. Liberal writers Ezra Klein and Brian Beutler, among others, blasted Democrats for caving and declared that they lost the sequestration fight.
Though Republicans have gotten the best of Obama on the sequestration issue, it should be cautioned that this isn’t a significant policy victory for conservatives. It’s nothing of the scale that liberals were able to achieve with the passage of the national health care law, for instance. On the other hand, the spending baseline will be about $1 trillion lower as a result of sequestration and Republicans only control the House of Representatives.