No one believed me a year and a half ago when I said it, but as a result of a 2011 debt ceiling deal I am certain John Boehner now regrets making, Republicans are now squealing as the President and Democrats turn up the heat on the sequester - the automatic across the board spending cuts slated to go into effect on March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them. Today, the president spoke, flanked by first responders, about the cuts and their impact on civil society as well as military readiness.
Here's some of what the president had to say:
Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn’t make those distinctions.The president goes on to list the effects of the automatic cuts it would make in law enforcement, first responders, military readiness, schools, and programs families and children depend on. But, the president was rather clear that the Republican solutions are even worse, given their solutions would only worsen the cuts in domestic investments and introduce cuts in the safety net where there is none right now in favor of sparing the military from the chopping block, rather than raise a single dime in revenue by closing loopholes that enrich the wealthy.
“Now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice,” Obama said. “Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest individuals and corporations. That’s the choice. Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their jobs because you want to protect a special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to have teachers laid off or kids not have access to head start? Or deeper cuts in student loan programs?”Democrats in the Senate and the president have revived the Buffett Rule (making millionaires pay at least 30% in taxes) as part of a plan to avoid the cuts, an wildly popular idea that put the squeeze on the Republicans even more. The president's stand has the Republican party in a bind, and squealing like a pig. Or an elephant. I don't know. Do elephants squeal? But I digress. Here's the Republican response to it: John Boehner has doubled down on Paul Ryan's idea to end all programs to help the middle class reach the ladder of opportunity. Mitch McConnell is very upset that the President is "campaigning" - i.e. taking his message to the people; and he should be. Really, it makes it very difficult to caricature the president and lie about him when he's in front of an issue every day calling your obstruction out.
The Republicans wouldn't be complaining so much if they didn't feel the squeeze. They really don't want to abandon their base again and vote for a sensible proposal to hold off the sequester, but they also know that despite their efforts to blame the president for it, the large majority of Americans hold Republicans responsible for letting those happen instead of compromising with the president. And that will come back to haunt them in 2014.
This is yet another example of President Obama making Republicans choose between their crazed base and the good majority of Americans - between doing what their base wants and doing what the country needs. He will win this fight either way - either by forcing Republicans to cave again, or by holding them accountable to the American people for the fallout.