Byron York dissects the Republican position on the sequester and asks some pointed questions:
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy "that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more."
Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn't happen -- and it seems entirely unlikely -- the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP's blessing.
In addition, Boehner calls the cuts "deep," when most conservatives emphasize that for the next year they amount to about $85 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget. Which leads to another question: Why would Boehner adopt the Democratic description of the cuts as "deep" when they would touch such a relatively small part of federal spending?
The effect of Boehner's argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them. At the same time, Boehner is contributing to Republican confusion on the question of whether the cuts are in fact "deep" or whether they are relatively minor.
Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating? Boehner could argue that the sequester cuts are necessary as a first -- and somewhat modest -- step toward controlling the deficits that threaten the economy. Instead, he describes them as a threat to national security and jobs that he nevertheless supports. It's not an argument that is likely to persuade millions of Americans.
The Pentagon is ready to furlough 800,000 workers a couple of days a month, civilian contractors are preparing massive layoffs, other government agencies are preparing to cut back services - and the GOP is giving the impression that this is just fine with them.
They should be pointing the finger at Democrats and accusing them of irresponsibility - and repeating it every chance they get. Instead,they are bogged down in this esoteric argument about replacing the sequester cuts with cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
If they are going to support the sequester, York is absolutely right; embrace it and call it a decent first step. It may be political poison but its better than warning about the severity of the sequester and then standing by and doing nothing while the roof caves in.