Next week, Paul Ryan will introduce the Republican budget, which we already know will set a discretionary spending level roughly $20 billion below the spending cap negotiated in the debt limit deal. We also know that it will include the premium support program for Medicare that would end the guaranteed system in favor of a voucher to seniors to choose between a menu of private plans and traditional Medicare, necessarily weakening the bargaining power of Medicare, the best part of the US health care system in terms of cost control. Now we learn that the budget will also attempt to overrun the defense trigger, replacing the cuts to the defense budget with cuts from elsewhere, mostly to federal employees.
The bill is expected to emulate some aspects of a proposal first introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., in December. McKeon’s original bill would delay the first year of defense cuts mandated by the sequester, instead offering an equivalent amount through federal workforce cuts. Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., has introduced a similar measure.
Republican defense leaders have protested that the military was taking the brunt of spending cuts. But by firewalling defense from further cuts, House Republicans would need to pay for those expected cuts another way. At a House Budget Committee hearing, Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Panetta he felt entitlement spending should be on the table.
“With regards to the Budget Control Act, an across-the-board $97 billion discretionary spending cut will be imposed on January 2, 2013, including devastating cuts to our national security,” Ryan said in statement provided to National Journal. “House Republicans are continuing their efforts to reprioritize the savings called for under the Budget Control Act, because our troops and military families shouldn’t pay the price for Washington’s failure to take action.”
So instead of our troops and military families paying the price, federal workers and their families should pay the price. Incidentally our troops are federal workers, so this just gives them a carve-out from pay cuts and layoffs.
Republicans are cowardly doing this on a year-by-year basis, because they’re afraid to come up with any larger deficit reduction plan. So they’ll just chip away at the defense trigger with targeted cuts. The overall goal is to take $600 billion in cuts off the largest and most robust military in the world, bigger than every other military combined, and apply them to a side of the budget that is at its lowest percentage relative to GDP since the Eisenhower era. Obviously the lobbyists on the defense side of the budget have a better argument, which is to say they have more money.
Again, the lame duck session is going to resolve a lot of these issues, not the budget, so it’s worth seeing where the various forces will attempt to take this beforehand.