Pining for a Republican Crackup

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 6 2013 5:54 PM

Pining for a Republican Crackup

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The Pentagon

Photo by STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

Greg Sargent tries to get spending hawks to condemn Republicans who don't want to replace the defense portion of the sequestration, and a hawk meets him halfway:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

At one point, Lindsey Graham said: “I’m sure Iran is very supportive of sequestration.”
I asked Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller for a response. “Congress promised when they passed the Budget Control Act that if the supercommittee failed, they’d do sequestration,” he said. “We don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to do what they promised they would do.”
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This, says Sargent, is evidence of a "looming crackup" over a sequestration replacement. Maybe. But let's remember the current Republican plan, before the March 1 deadline—make Democrats explain what they would replace sequestration with. If they hit the deadline and can't pass a version of the replacement that consists entirely of non-defense spending, then it's not so much a crackup as an overall failure. There are three possible outcomes:

1) Some rump of Republican spending hawks to join Democrats and prevent the replacement bill from passing in the House.

2) Just enough Republicans back a no-defense-cuts replacement bill to send it to the Senate, where it dies, like it did in 2012.

3) Everybody punts, like they did in the fiscal cliff deal.

Currently, Republicans are convinced that they're winning a political victory by making President Obama propose his own replacement cuts/revenues, which they can denounce as unserious. But what does Obama care? He's not running for re-election again. He's broken much more meaningful promises than "the sequester won't happen." Current law brings sequestration back to life on March 1, unless the Republican House and Democratic Senate stop it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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