Ouch

02.20.13

Republicans Will Lose on the Sequester

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What is the sequester battle? In a nutshell, it's an attempt to refight the 2012 election, only this time on terms way less favorable to Republicans.

Republicans want to move early to a balanced budget. They want to reach balance through spending cuts only, no tax increases. And they want the spending cuts to fall more heavily on social programs than defense, while exempting Medicare and Social Security for current beneficiaries.

The president wants to move later to a balanced budget. He wants to rely more on tax increases, and he wants the spending cuts to apply to Medicare as well as discretionary spending.

We presented those two options to the American people in November, and the president's option prevailed. Now Republicans want to present the same choice again.

But this time, they will be presenting the choice under extra disadvantages.

1) President Obama is more popular now than he was in November.

2) Republicans no longer have the coordinated voice and decision-making of a presidential campaign.

3) Because the sequester mechanism grants substantial discretion to the executive to determine where the cuts fall, the president gains powerful new leverage to frame the budget choice in ways maximally embarrassing to Republicans.

4) Because sequester cuts will fall on defense, Republicans will lose the support of important elements of their coalition as the contest continues.

Republicans should not try to reshape the government of the United States from the House of Representatives. That always fails. Instead, they should be focusing on these two missions:

A) Work to temper and mitigate the worst of the president's agenda - and especially the tax increases and regulations coming in Obamacare, and

B) Begin now to frame the 2014 and 2016 choice in ways advantageous to Republicans.

What they are doing now makes neither tactical nor strategic sense. The likeliest outcome of the sequester fight for Republicans is yet another after yet another political defeat.