Last month I talked about the strategy Republicans should employ moving forward in order to get the most out of the debt and spending debate. I said that the Republicans should raise the debt ceiling because it was a losing battle and instead focus on the sequester and continuing resolution to fund the government. It appears that the GOP is taking that strategy, assuming they can hold the line.
Republicans have the upper hand with the sequester debate, which is the first time they have really had the upper hand in these debates. Republicans didn’t have the upper hand in the fiscal cliff debate and ended up caving in the end. The same went for the debt ceiling. Unlike those two debates though, the GOP has the upper hand with the sequester because President Obama does not want the sequester to happen.
President Obama has already said that the sequester will be damaging to the economy. Obama said about the sequester, “We have seen the effects that political dysfunction can have. It will cost us jobs and hurt our economy.” Pushing even further, Obama said that the automatic cuts should instead be replaced with, “balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform.”
Now you see why the GOP has the upper hand here. The GOP doesn’t want the defense cuts within the sequester to happen, but they also don’t want anymore tax increases or what Obama calls ‘tax reform’ to happen either. As expected Republicans immediately rejected Obama’s call for more tax increases.
The White House is controlling all communication about the sequester. They have issued a sort of gag order on all levels of government that may be affected by the sequester. Their insistence on controlling the message further points out that they are on the defensive in this debate. Should Republicans hold the line on the sequester, they will be able to use it to effectively gain some leverage to get their policies passed. If Republicans start to cave though due to the defense cuts and split their support, they will lose this battle just like they lost the fiscal cliff deal. Only time will tell if Republicans can stay united.