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January 15, 2013

Republicans Can Win a Spending-Cut Fight Because Cuts Are Already Coming

 

The debate now consuming Washington is over President Obama’s demand that Congress increase the federal debt limit versus Republicans’ insistence that he cut spending.

There’s even talk of a government shutdown, which didn’t work out as well as Republicans had hoped last time it happened, between December 16, 1995, and January 6, 1996. Indeed, that shutdown helped then President Bill Clinton get his mojo back.

Mostly ignored is that the fix is already in place.

The president asserted at his Monday presser, “If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed.”

Has any Republican refused to pay the government’s bills?  What most of them say is they want to cut spending by at least as much as they increase the debt limit, if not more.

Obama claims he won’t have that debate again, referring to a repeat of the debt-limit fight that led to a tanking of the stock market and a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. Fine, he doesn’t have to.

The result of that previous fight was the Budget Control Act, which Congress passed and Obama signed in August 2011. It includes $1.2 trillion in mandatory spending cuts, referred to as the “sequester,” which were supposed to take effect January 1, but were delayed for two months as part of the fiscal cliff agreement.

In other words, if Congress does nothing, the government, by law, will have to begin cutting about $109 billion a year.

Of course, Republicans don’t like how deep defense budgets will be cut. But that’s an easy fix: draft a bill that allows Congress to reconfigure what will be cut and send it to the president.

Obama had leverage over Republicans in the fiscal-cliff battle because taxes were going up on everyone if the Republicans didn’t cave. Republicans have leverage over Obama on the debt-limit battle because budgets will be cut unless the president caves.


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