Sorry, the GOP doesn’t have the upper hand on the sequester

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Over at the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein writes that, in regards to the sequester, “Republicans have turned the tables on Obama.”

“If nothing happens by March 1,” Klein notes, “about $1 trillion worth of spending cuts will go into effect automatically.”

He has a point. On the surface, Republicans should like spending cuts. But there are two big problems with this, politically.

First, Klein is quick to reference — but then cavalierly dismiss — the defense cuts. “Ideally, Republicans don’t want the military spending cuts,” he concedes, before adding that “they can live with them if nothing happens.”

This is facile. Senate defense hawks like John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and Lindsey Graham have already protested the sequester, referring to it as “draconian cuts.”

One could easily envision conservative opinion leaders such as Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney going on Fox News and scuttling any notion that the sequester is acceptable to conservatives who want a strong national defense.

There’s also this: Any politician hoping to score points at home can easily play the populist demagogue with this issue. For example, last year it was estimated that the state of Florida alone, would “lose about 42,000 jobs…”

But even if Republicans do fall in line and universally take a hard line approach here, they will still be up against the bully pulpit. As Politico reported, President Obama warned their would be “grave economic consequences if a package of automatic spending cuts takes effect in coming weeks as part of the sequester.”

It’s worth noting that Klein isn’t the only brilliant conservative columnist to take the position that Republicans have Obama right where they want him on this issue. Charles Krauthammer has also made this point.

Look, I’m not suggesting that Republicans should give up and vote to raise taxes. But I am suggesting that they have no leverage and probably cannot turn this into any sort of political victory.

Republicans, I suppose, could play this game of political chicken and win. They could threaten to let the sequester kick in and then, assuming nothing bad happens, demonstrate once and for all that the overwrought fear and worry were tantamount to Y2K concerns.

But that would take courage and unity…

Matt K. Lewis