Republicans, by contrast, have become emboldened. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner signaled that Republicans will not only set future appropriations at sequestration levels, but that they’d attempt to take even more money out of domestic programs and use it to increase national defense — the only category of spending they’ve attempted to shield from dramatic budget cuts.
That fight is still several months away. And there are plenty of reasons to think Boehner’s tough talk will give way to pragmatism, when Democrats object to providing defense spending with special treatment.
…but before we dwell on that too much let me just point out something: why on earth does Beutler think that the Republicans will care about the Democrats being upset that we think that defense spending should get special treatment? We very loudly and very reluctantly merely tolerated defense cuts (more accurately, a reversion to pre-stimulus funding) because it was the only way to stop the Democrats to lock in the 2009 stimulus baseline: if we can now shift funds over from useless government bureaucracies to national defense that would be great**.
But, moving along… Greg Sargent of the WaPo (also via Jim) is just as depressed about (and a little afraid of) the situation as Beutler. Admittedly, Sargent does his best to buck up progressives by suggesting that either a ‘grand bargain’ or a Republican cave on tax hikes is still possible – but he doesn’t really explain how the first alternative is supposed to happen; and admits that there’s no obvious path that leads to the latter. Which is understandable. To begin with, the only ‘grand bargain’ that Barack Obama can reasonably expect to get at this point would stylistically resemble the ‘grand bargain’ that Bill Clinton made with the GOP over welfare reform: to wit, the GOP passes something and doesn’t say anything when Obama muscles in to take credit for it***. And progressives aren’t going to find an obvious path to tax hikes because there isn’t one. The House of Representatives is full of Republicans who aren’t worried about their seats; they are therefore free to vote their consciences, and their consciences say that yet more tax hikes to pay for yet more bloated federal bureaucracies is unconscionable.
Couple all of this with the awkward truth (for given values of ‘awkward’) that the sequester apocalypse more or less resembled the Mayan one – much to the chagrin of the Democrats who hyped it up so – and you have the potential for a quite merry spring. Well, for a given value of ‘you.’
PS: I understand fully that Republicans and conservatives are unhappy with the CR. Trust me: Democrats and liberals are unhappier. Reid’s entire reason for not doing a budget for the last four years was to get the 2009 ‘stimulus’ made part of the baseline for future budgets. That has now officially crashed and burned.
*I am using Stephen King’s old three-tier (gross-out/horror/terror) technical definition here; Brian Beutler is dealing with a constant low-grade sensation that this is all wrong and unnatural and something that should not be, and it shows.
**Full disclosure: the sequester’s (which I reluctantly supported) defense adjustments has negatively and significantlt impacted my family’s household income.
***Mind you, Barack Obama probably would have gotten more out of Republicans if he hadn’t started his Presidential relationship with us by saying “I won,” which is why you should never let your ego write checks that your caucus can’t cash.