Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Obama's veto threat

He's still got a long way to go before he comes into my good graces, but I will admit that President Obama at least moved the needle in a favorable direction with yesterday's veto threat.

On Monday, the news came down that the super committee had failed (surprise, surprise) to reach an agreement about how to reduce the budget deficit.  Now, because of that failure, there will be an automatic sequestration of the federal budget, cutting $1.2 trillion from education, public housing, and that cow which Republicans hold most sacred, defense.

Cutting defense spending is bad juju for Republicans.  Never mind that the cuts don't even come into effect until 2013.  It doesn't look good.

So, in order to salvage the situation, Republican Buck McKeon (CA) and the old angry badger himself, Senator John McCain, announced that they were crafting legislation that would prevent the cuts to defense from taking place.  The ol' end-around that Republicans became so good at when Junior was in the Oval.

Well, the President put the kibosh on that little bit of skullduggery.  The money quote:
My message to them is simple:  No.  I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.  There will be no easy off ramps on this one. --President Obama, November 21, 2011
How refreshing!  Tough talk from the president!

But, more importantly, the President's remarks lay out the stark reality for Republicans, and they can see it plain as day.  The President has them right where he wants them.

The Bush tax cuts, the crown jewel of the Bush legacy, are set to expire at the end of 2012.  Republicans want to salvage those tax cuts.  But they can't do so without Democratic cooperation.  President Obama's veto threat slams the door on any hopes Republicans may have entertained about winning over pliant Democrats in Congress, and forces them to return to the bargaining table on deficit negotiations.

If they refuse, the defense cuts go into effect and the Bush tax cuts expire.  If they cooperate, they lose the Bush tax cuts and will be forced to accede to Democratic demands for increased revenues (read: taxes).

All of this is predicated on the Democrats holding firm on their side of the table, of course.  And we all know that there are few commodities more scarce than Democratic resolve.

We'll see how it plays out.  But I wouldn't want to be in Mitch McConnell's shoes right now.

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