Leading House Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan, have trumpeted their eagerness to force a budget sequester in March.
The abrupt budget cuts in the sequester would land especially hard on defense. Remember, defense budgets are already scheduled to shrink by $500 billion over the next decade even before the sequester. The sequester would deduct nearly $500 billion more, with $25 billion out of defense in Year 1. This second-round of cuts will have ominous implications for national security. For that reason, I've assumed that House Republicans were bluffing, talking tough on sequester to enhance their clout in the negotiations ahead.
Lately, though, I've begun to worry: they might actually do it.
Here is a warning sign: the conservative commentariat is going quiet on the sequester, when not - as with Larry Kudlow in National Review Online yesterday - outright endorsing it.
If Congress wants to help the U.S. economy, the best thing it can do right now is implement this sequester. Then it can round out an even larger growth package, including large- and small-business tax reform and adjustments to stop entitlements from going bankrupt.
I wish the energy now going into the doomed fight to defeat the Chuck Hagel nomination were being invested instead in the much more important struggle to maintain defense budgets. Where are the defense hawks now, when they are most needed?