Take House Majority Whip Tom Cole of Oklahoma, for example. Yesterday on ABC's This Week, he said he was "absolutely" opposed to replacing the sequester's deficit reductions with a deal that includes revenue. The only thing he said he'd consider was "redistributing" the cuts, presumably to screw over people that he doesn't count as political allies.
But although Cole blamed the sequester on President Obama and said people "ought to be worried" about the impact it will have, he said it was "inevitable." The only thing that proves, however, is that Cole doesn't understand what the word inevitable means, because if Congress wants to avoid the sequester, it can simply repeal it.
As you'll see below the fold, while Cole was taking his hard line against revenue, Senator John McCain actually did the unthinkable, telling Fox News that he wouldn't rule out accepting new revenue as part of a deal to replace the sequester.
"Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the new cliff, and I'll take responsibility for it for the Republicans," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday. "But we've got to avoid it. We've got to stop it."So you've got a top House Republican saying "absolutely" no revenue and a top Senate Republican saying "maybe so." Republicans in disarray! But wait, hold on a minute, because while they both say they are against the spending cuts in the sequester, neither one of them was willing to suggest just getting rid of it altogether.
"Would I look at some revenue-closers? Maybe so," said McCain, sounding slightly more conciliatory than his House GOP counterparts. "But we already just raised taxes. Why do we have to raise taxes again?"
Unfortunately, while Democrats and the White House have a far better approach to replacing the sequester than Republicans, they also have been unwilling to suggest repealing the sequester. That means they either believe they can use the sequester as leverage to push through a deficit reduction plan that they support or they are simply afraid of the political consequences of supporting repeal.
To be clear, the sequester isn't the absolute worst policy option on the table. The Republican plan to replace the sequester with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance programs would be even worse. And the sequester might just be the only way to begin getting military spending under control. But given the state of the economy, this is no time for austerity, especially since the budget deficit has already dropped by 40 percent since the sequester was signed into law. Barring a deal to replace it with something better, we should repeal it—or at least postpone it for a couple of years.
And as for Washington politicians who say they are against the sequester but can't bring themselves to support simply getting rid of it, well, they aren't really against the sequester. You can be for it before you were against it, or you can be against it before you were for it, but you can't be for for it while you're against it.