Politics

04.26.13

Sequestration: GOP Wins

It's pretty hard to deny the above after today's House vote on the FAA. The Democrats were supposed to oppose this and defend the poor and those who depend on the government in other ways--scientific reserachers, for instance, whose work is so tied up in government grants. Instead, they did exactly what one feared they would do, which is vote to protect the business traveler and let everyone else suffer.

Now the Republicans know, or can presume until it's proven otherwise at least, that if there's a little discomfort caused by the sequester to any group with a little political power, they can just fix that and do nothing else. The Democrats from Obama down could have tried to exert some leverage here, saying we'll help fix A but in exchange for helping to fix B. Maybe they didn't have any, but they sure won't after today.

Ezra Klein makes an interesting broader point:

It is worth noting how different the Democrats’ approach to sequestration has been to the GOP’s approach to, well, everything. Over the past five years, Republicans have repeatedly accepted short-term political pain for long-term policy gain. That’s the governing political principle behind their threats to shut down the government, breach the debt ceiling, and, for that matter, accept sequestration. Today, Democrats showed they’re not willing to accept even a bit of short-term pain for long-term policy gain. They played a game of chicken with the Republicans, and they lost. Badly.

True enough. The GOP is extremely and extremely unpopular, and I still think that they are really damaging themselves politically in the long run (not with this vote necessarily but more generally). But it has to be said, they are often the winners when it comes to influencing the substance of federal policy. They "caved" on the fiscal cliff, for example, but they pushed the tax-rise number up from $250,000 to $450,000, and they made most of Bush's tax cuts permanent.

It's conceivable that the GOP has been able to move budgetary and tax policy farther to the right in opposition than it would have if it held the White House (assuming continued Democratic control of the Senate). They've been effective. But I still say it comes at a high price, that may not have to be paid until 201, but it will be paid someday.