The budget deal requires an additional $1.5 trillion in spending cuts to be designed by a “super-committee of legislators” who will propose painful recommendations—and if those recommendations aren’t accepted by both Houses, there will be automatic cuts to Defense and Medicare. The idea here is that Republicans will be restrained from avoiding tough choices by the supercommittee by the prospect of big defense cuts, while Democrats will feel the same way about Medicare.
Oh? So, going into an extremely nerve-wracking election season, only Republicans will care about defense spending? Defense spending has been all but sacrosanct for the past decade, and there’s a reason for that: the public loves the military, it’s the most popular institution in America, we’re fighting two wars, and whatever the military wants it gets. So Democrats don’t mind handing potential rivals an issue relating to their irresponsibility toward our military?
Oh, yes, they sure do and they sure will.
How’s this for an impressive feat – without even entering the GOP presidential race, Gov. Rick Perry has somehow managed to position himself as one of the Republican frontrunners, according to the latest Rasmussen poll. Mitt Romney is still leading the presidential field at 22 percent in the latest poll of likely Republican voters, but Gov. Rick Perry is already nipping at his heels at 18 percent.
Much of this has to do with the fact that Romney’s support has dropped 11 points since Rasmussen’s post-debate poll in mid-July. Bachmann had come in second in that survey, but now she slightly trails Perry at 16 percent.
A fantastic bit of rhetoric from an enraged leftist Democrat in the House, responding to the outlines of the budget deal: Emanuel Cleaver, a pastor from Missouri, described it as a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” And indeed it is. There are no good options for liberal/Left Democrats in the House. If they vote against the bill en masse, they will make Obama look as though he has betrayed his own core principles, and indeed, they may lead to the deal’s collapse if a few more Republicans than agreed to the Boehner bill yesterday decide to vote no. Should that happen, they will destroy the Obama presidency. But if they agree, they are eating that sandwich. Tactically and strategically, this is a political disaster for the Democrats. That won’t mean much to the Tea Partiers in the House, whose opposition to the bill is entirely conviction-driven. But to the extent that a politician’s heart beats within a Tea Partier’s breast, that politician should be able to see the practical benefits to him and his party here.
Defense spending may be marginally safer now that Sen. Harry Reid’s debt-ceiling plan – which included up to $860 billion in defense cuts – has been taken off the table. But the new proposal being kicked around by Republicans and Democrats reportedly contains a measure that could jeopardize our national security at a later date. By including a “trigger” mechanism that will kick off across-the-board spending cuts if (when?) both parties are unable to agree on reductions, Congress is opening defense up to some serious budget-slashing. Here’s John Bolton’s take:
Every indication is that the debt ceiling negotiations are leaving the defense budget in grave jeopardy. By exposing critical defense programs to disproportionate cuts as part of the “trigger mechanism,” there is a clear risk that key defense programs will be hollowed out.
While the trigger mechanism comes into play only if the congressional negotiators fail to reach agreement on the second phase of spending cuts, it verges on catastrophe to take such a national security risk.
The “triggers” in the latest debt ceiling deal have mostly been agreed upon, but ABC’s Jake Tapper reports on two items apparently still being hashed out:
And the debt ceiling will be raised by $2.4 trillion in two tranches: $900 billion immediately, and the debt ceiling will be raised by an additional $1.5 trillion next year – either through passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, which is unlikely, or with Congress voting its disapproval.
After all of Reid’s puffery that his plan was the only one that could get through both houses of Congress, the Democratic leader suffered an embarrassing blow today when his (recrafted) proposal flopped in the Senate:
The vote, initially planned for late Saturday, ultimately proved inconsequential, with leaders working to agree on terms of a new plan. The Senate could return to vote on it Sunday evening if an agreement is reached.
Tom Friedman’s favorite model train set suffered a tragic disaster a week ago, when a carriage from China’s high-speed rail system leapt over the side of a bridge, killing 40 people and injuring almost 200. China fetishists like Friedman view the fast and flashy Chinese infrastructure boom as a literal model for the U.S. Our trains are slow and need new paint, you see, and that means China is better positioned to excel in some presumably train-obsessed future. Or something like that.
The thing is, Barack Obama has bought into this line. When he talks about nation building at home, he’s referring to the kind of countrywide well-being and prosperity that only a Friedmanesque rail-dominated utopia can deliver. But, as a well-known anchor on China’s CCTV noted, there’s a problem here:
Salim Karam, who is from the Hezbollah-allied Marada party and is the minister of state in Lebanon’s new Hezbollah-controlled government, doesn’t think the White House has the will to do it:
State Minister Salim Karam said in an interview published on Saturday that he does not believe the U.S. will sanction Lebanon. “We are not afraid [of sanctions], and we do not think that we are targeted by anything of that kind because the U.S. distributes their sanctions [everywhere] but has not put Lebanon itself on the black list,” he told Kuwaiti newspaper As-Seyyasah.
It’s good to hear House Republicans finding their voices in defense of the defense budget. As the weeklystandard.com notes, leading House figures including Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Reps. Randy Forbes and Allen West held a press conference to denounce as “incredible” and “unconscionable” (in West’s words) the sweeping defense budget cuts proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid–cuts that would go double the already indefensible $400 billion in cuts pushed by President Obama.
West, a former army lieutenant colonel and Iraq War vet, noted on a recent visit with the troops, “I heard some things that really sent a chill down my spine…. Commanders told me that we’re starting to have to budget toilet paper into the barracks.” In other words, the military is already facing a budget crunch; further cuts will exacerbate the situation and make it impossible to carry out the armed forces’ vital missions.
As of now—Sunday morning—word is there’s a deal between the White House and Republicans on a deal to raise the debt ceiling. No tax increases. $1 trillion in immediate budget cuts. A required $1.5 trillion in cuts by November as designed by a bipartisan committee or (if the House and Senate do not agree on them) automatic cuts to Medicare (to scare Democrats) and Defense (to scare Republicans).
If the details are true, and the deal holds, it’s an astonishing achievement for the Right—the most significant conceptual shift in American politics since Bill Clinton announced his support for ending welfare in 1996. Without question, there are elements on the Right that will not see it this way—that will say the deal is a sellout, that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are craven, they are enablers, they are carrying Obama’s water. I’d like to suggest a political analogy from the past that might help explain why they are wrong and why they are being unjust to those who support a deal.
So last night, Senate Democrats gave a press conference in which they variously denounced Republicans for refusing to act and, in an especially inapposite remark by Chuck Schumer, were said to be unable to tie their shoelaces. This morning the president said Republicans had wasted “precious days” struggling to pass their second bill raising the debt ceiling.
Judging from the liberal commentariat, this general proposition—that House Republicans are incompetent do-nothings—has become received law in many venues. And there was some support for the view when the GOP walked out of talks with the White House the other week. But it now flies in the face of inarguable fact: The Republican-led House has now passed two bills in two weeks raising the debt ceiling. The Senate has voted both those bills down. Yes, they contain provisions that are difficult, if not impossible, for Democrats to swallow. But facts are facts, and the facts are that the Republicans have provided two pathways to a debt-ceiling increase and the Democrats have provided none.
Democrats and their friends have reason to continue trying to sell the lines that Republicans are not interested in working with them and don’t know what they’re doing, but they’re starting to sound like Baghdad Bob doing it.
Just as the United States is solely focused on the debt-ceiling crisis, judging by press reports, Israelis seem equally oblivious to foreign policy this week. Protests about a housing shortage have been making quite a ruckus and forcing the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scramble to deal with the problem. The housing demonstrations–on the heels of other complaints about the price of food–make it appear as if Israel is in dire economic straits. But by all accounts, Israel’s economy is in good shape. Economic growth continues at a steady pace, and the stewardship of the country’s finances by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have been widely praised.
So what’s behind this effort to undermine Netanyahu? Leftist commentator Gershon Gorenberg gives us a clue with his piece in the American Prospect. According to Gorenberg, the problem is not just this government, but the last two decades of efforts to transform Israel’s economy from a third world socialist basket case to the first world dynamo it is today. To this way of thinking, the inequities that can occur when free enterprise is allowed to create new wealth are abhorrent. His piece (which attempts to pick up the fraudulent theme championed last week by Ethan Bronner in which the protesters are seen as an echo of the Arab Spring), and the tone sounded by many of the protesters, reflect nostalgia for the good old days–when profit was a dirty word. Like the demonstrators in the streets of Greece, their goal isn’t a more prosperous Israel but an expansion of an already bloated welfare state.
Here’s further evidence the debt ceiling debate is badly hurting the president: His job approval rating is at a new low, averaging 40 percent in July 26-28 Gallup Daily tracking. (His prior low rating of 41 percent occurred several times, the last of which was in April.)
Obama’s job approval rating among Democrats is 72 percent, which is okay, but not great. And his approval rating is only 34 percent among independents, which is alarmingly low. (Thirteen percent of Republicans approve of Obama, which is about what one would expect.)
Not only would Sen. Harry Reid’s plan let Democrats avoid another debt-limit debate until after the 2012 election, but it will also allow them to avoid coming up with a new budget for the next two years. The Republican Policy Committee writes:
After over 800 days of no budget, the Reid plan “deems” a budget for this year AND next year – Democrats signal they want to avoid doing a budget next year. Since the Reid bill puts in place discretionary spending caps for the Senate’s purposes for this year and next year, the Democrats are trying to avoid the need to do a budget resolution this year or next.
The most recent economic news is figuratively, if not quite literally, depressing.
According to the Commerce Department, the economy expanded 1.3 percent in the second quarter of this year. We also learned that the economy came close to contracting in the first quarter. The government revised the first quarter growth figures downward to just 0.4 percent, a huge downward revision from what we were orginally told (an increase of 1.9 percent).
As Max wrote, the triumphalist statements emanating from the administration about the supposed imminent collapse of al-Qaeda are both premature and besides the point, because the Islamist terrorist threat is bigger than this one organization. But yesterday, the Washington Post gave us another reminder of al-Qaeda’s resourcefulness and an even more ominous threat to American security: Iran. The Post reported Iran is now helping al-Qaeda funnel cash and recruits into Pakistan. According to the Treasury Department, the terror group’s money transfers have been handled out of Iran. Tehran is also allowing the free flow of al-Qaeda operatives through its borders, principally into Pakistan’s tribal region.
Iran’s direct aid to Hamas and Hezbollah has long been considered a fact of life in the Middle East. But its ties to al-Qaeda illustrate that this Islamist terror network isn’t limited to groups on Israel’s borders. Americans understand the nature of the al-Qaeda threat to the West, but this revelation ought to re-focus our attention on Iran’s goals as it moves closer to nuclear capability.
After Mitt Romney suggested he was in favor of pulling out of Afghanistan during the first presidential debate, there was speculation about whether a new isolationist streak was coursing through the Republican presidential field. But at The New Republic, Eli Lake finds the national security issues dividing the candidates aren’t necessarily as simple as being for or against the drawdown.
There are numerous new debates that have cropped up within the party, and one subject unique to the 2012 field is the “threat” of sharia law in America. Namely, there’s a split among candidates who feel that sharia – Islamic religious law – is an imminent danger that could potentially overtake our Constitution, and those who disagree.
Throughout this crisis, President Obama has urged the American people to call, email and tweet Republican congressmen to demand a bipartisan compromise.
Within minutes of the Business Insider reporting the Apple Corporation currently has more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury, the president reiterated his request via Twitter for Americans to contact their legislators via Twitter to express their views.
Sen. Harry Reid, pushing ahead with his plan in the Senate, said this morning he’s open to “tweaks” to the bill if it will bring in the Republican support he needs to prevent a potential filibuster:
“I have no pride of authorship,” Reid said on the floor. “If somebody can figure out another way to improve that suggestion I have, I will work with them.”
Speaking in personal terms, Reid said he’s spent his “entire adult life” finding consensus, even at times feeling like a “failure” in his previous career as an attorney.
Referring to his plan, Reid said, “This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default.”
President Obama used an interesting phrase to describe John Boehner’s debt ceiling bill today: “It’s a plan that would force us to relive this crisis in just a few short months… in other words, it does not solve the problem.”
This is a patently ridiculous statement on its face; the debt ceiling has to be raised regularly–as Obama has frequently reminded the American people during this debate. Does that mean “the problem” is never solved? If so, the GOP has nothing to do with it. Is Obama pushing for the elimination of the debt ceiling? No, what he meant to say was: “In other words, it does not solve my problem.”