The Iron Triangle Meets the Sequester

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Over at NRO, Robert Costa and Katrina Trinko catch up with Tom DeLay, who makes a point so obvious about the sequester that I’m surprised I hear this so seldom:

Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, who was meeting with a few of his former colleagues on Wednesday at the Capitol, says Boehner’s playbook is “sharp,” since defense spending “can always be replaced during the appropriations process, after the cuts are put into place.”

“You can always put money back in for defense,” DeLay says. “I think Boehner is going to stick with the sequester since the cuts are already happening, and if he needs to do something later, he can. I don’t think the president realizes how Boehner has the upper hand.”

Dave Weigel quotes a Republican “spending hawk” who’s furious about this. “I cannot tell you what a disaster I think it is for Republicans to take a year of cuts and play the same game we’ve been playing,” he says. “It erodes every ounce of credibility on our side.”

Meh. I guess this is possible. But I doubt it. There might be a few genuine deficit hawks in the conservative movement, but they’re few and far between. It’s hardly a secret that of the three options for reducing the deficit—cutting domestic spending, cutting defense spending, and raising taxes—conservatives only favor the first. They’re welfare hawks, not deficit hawks. I doubt that the Republican leadership will lose any points among the base for increasing the defense budget.

The question, then, is whether Democrats can stand up to the pressure to reverse the Pentagon cuts. I don’t think they’re as vulnerable as they once were to appeasement demagoguery, but they’re still vulnerable. I don’t know for sure how this will play out, but DeLay definitely has a point.

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