House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks to reporters Thursday included a comment that makes clear the GOP approach to the sequester is so unserious that no deal looks even remotely possible:
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told my Republican colleagues at our retreat,” said Boehner, R-Ohio, according to The Hill. “The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget in the next 10 years.”
So, House Republicans are not only willing to let the sequester hit, but the only acceptable replacement will be a plan that wipes away the deficit in 10 years – all without new revenue?
Let’s consider what this means. Eliminating the deficit in 10 years with no new revenue would require extraordinarily deep cuts to the federal government. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently concluded that doing so would require across-the-board cuts of one-sixth to one-third of spending on government programs, depending on whether defense and/or entitlements are included.
Then there’s timing. There is simply no chance that House Republicans will produce such a budget by March 1, when the sequester is scheduled to take effect. Wiping out the deficit in 10 years with no new revenue would be at least as bad as the Paul Ryan plan – probably worse – yet even that plan was loaded with unspecified cuts and other big question marks.
Meanwhile, the plan that Senate Democrats unveiled Thursday to try to avert the sequester has a roughly 50-50 split of spending cuts and new revenue via the closing of various loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy and corporations.
In a nutshell, Democrats want the sequester to be averted through a mix of roughly equivalent concessions by both sides. But Republicans are so eager to avoid raising even a penny of new revenue from the rich and corporations that they would sooner present this as a choice between the sequester – which they themselves say will gut defense and tank the economy – and radically downsizing the government. The argument here is supposed to be that Senate Democrats will have to agree to something that, from their perspective, is significantly worse than the sequester – balancing the budget in 10 years with no new revenue – or we’re stuck with the sequester.
Surely this drives home just how profound the imbalance has become between the two parties’ handling of this issue.Greg Sargent blogs on domestic politics for The Washington Post.