Why the secrecy??? On Fox News Special Report, Bill Kristol expressed his frustration:
“This is kind of important. We do have a tradition in this country that things are debated in Congress and in the media, and if legislation is going to be proposed, there are committee hearings… it’s all [being done] behind closed doors. I really think it’s bizarre.”
Senator John Thune made the same point with Martha McCallum, today:
“Many of these major negotiations are a handful of people, behind closed doors, and then you come out with a product and it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ thing… something all of us have been advocating is, let’s have a budget debate. We haven’t had a budget pass Congress now for 790 days… There is a way that we should be doing this. We have committee process, regular order, it’s all in the light of day. That’s how the budget process ought to be conducted.”
One of the unfortunate things that has come out of the budget negotiations, thus far, is the seeming acquiescence of Republicans to drastic cuts in military spending.
Marc Thiessen wrote in The Washington Post:
Republicans are letting the Democrats use the tax issue to extract concessions. GOP leaders need to realize that they are the ones with the leverage in these negotiations. What are Democrats going to say if GOP leaders simply refuse to go along with their demand for tax hikes or give them defense cuts in exchange? “Sorry, Mr. Speaker, no deal — let the country default”? Of course not. President Obama does not have the luxury of letting the debt-limit talks fail and then blaming the GOP for a government default. If the dire predictions of his treasury secretary are to be believed, the consequences of a default would be so calamitous that Obama cannot allow it to happen. He must sign whatever debt-limit increase Republicans give him.
This means Republicans hold all the cards. So why on earth are they even thinking about giving Obama deep cuts in national defense in exchange for dropping his demand for tax increases that he knows he will never get? In November, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that even a 10 percent cut from the Pentagon budget, roughly $55 billion, would be “catastrophic” to the U.S. military. Obama has already cut more than $400 billion in defense programs since taking office, and he has proposed an additional $400 billion in defense cuts over the next 10 years.
As Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute has pointed out, if these cuts are enacted, the Obama administration will have chopped more than $800 billion from the Pentagon’s previously planned spending. In other words, our men and women in uniform will effectively be paying for Obama’s failed stimulus with cutbacks in needed equipment, training and force structure. Is that really what the GOP wants to do? Pay for the stimulus on the backs of our military? If Republicans really aspire to be constitutional conservatives, their first responsibility is to provide for the common defense. Congressional Republicans should not be a party to Obama’s plan to hollow out our military — they should fight it.
Is it not sickeningly predictable that the Dems would choose the military for the bulk of their cuts?
NRO spoke with Senator Sessions about the debt negotiations impasse:
Part of the problem, he argues, is Washington’s obsession with “secret groups” and commissions. Lawmakers would be much closer to a deal if they had simply followed the regular budget process. House Republicans did so in April when they formally adopted “The Path to Prosperity” under the leadership of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). Unfortunately, Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has opted to hold off on releasing a Democratic budget proposal as long as bipartisan talks are underway.
Sessions has been agitating for an open budget process for months. “The American people deserve to know where their elected leaders stand,” he says. Democrats are afraid, he argues, to introduce, and subsequently vote on, a budget that dramatically increases taxes. Conrad has even said he was considering a one-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes. By comparison, the president’s bipartisan deficit commission recommended a ratio of three-to-one.
“They cannot bring forth a budget their members support that the American people will support, and they understand that,” Sessions said in a recent interview with Fox News. He also suggests that Reid has spurned any budget-related floor action in order to avoid exposing a rift within the Democratic party, specifically when it comes to taxes. As Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) told reporters last month: “The 51 votes are actually on our side of the issue, not theirs.”So is the public. In a recent Bloomberg poll of U.S. adults, 55 percent said that spending cuts, combined with tax cuts, would be the best way to grow the economy, while 61 percent said they would not be willing to pay higher taxes to reduce the deficit. Just 36 percent were willing to pay more.
It’s the Dems who have the weak hand, here. Why would the Repubs be making concessions, especially ones that hurt the military?
House Republicans of all people should know there are plenty of other things that can be cut.