President Obama is willing to put our national defense at risk for a win on his campaign pledge of higher taxes. He’s shown no interest in leading an effort to handle the sequester, the $1.2 trillion in automatic reductions that will hit Jan. 2. Instead, his priority has been re-election fundraising, lollygagging on a bus tour and chatting at town halls. Republicans are trying to force him to get to work.
GOP House and Senate leaders wrote the president Friday seeking a bipartisan effort to address the military’s concerns. The multiyear sequester is set up to reduce planned spending by $110 billion in 2013, half coming from defense and the rest taken from other programs across the board.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor cited National Journal’s report that White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and senior adviser David Plouffe want a six-month delay in the sequester. The letter said, “Rather than proposing to simply put more space between this problem and the election or offering tax-increase proposals that face bipartisan congressional opposition, we hope you instead work with us to find a bipartisan solution before the end of the fiscal year.”
The way budgets work, delaying would have all the reductions kick in before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 — creating chaos for long-term project funding. “Other than pushing sequestration farther away from this November’s election, it is difficult to understand what benefit would be derived from a six-month delay,” the Republicans wrote.
Mr. Obama doesn’t mention the sequester in his stump speeches. When asked Friday about this, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said his boss has been “very clear” that hiking taxes on those who make more than $200,000 would “avert a sequester.”
The House already has offered alternatives. In May, it passed a reconciliation package that reformed mandatory spending programs to find even greater savings over the long term as opposed to a series of one-off reductions. The White House threatened to veto the bill because it didn’t include higher taxes. It’s not as if the bill would ever get to the Oval Office desk, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has blocked a vote.
The choice offered by the White House and Mr. Reid is a real cut in defense — that is, less will be spent this year than last — or massive tax increases on individuals and small businesses. Lost in between is any serious attempt on the part of the Obama administration to be fiscally responsible.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending through June already has increased $24 billion over the previous fiscal year, mostly because of runaway entitlements. Mr. Boehner is right to demand dollar-for-dollar cuts, but the White House isn’t listening. The president should pencil in some time for governing as he goes about campaigning.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.