The Democrats in the House have been outsmarted by the Republicans, and they aren’t happy about it.
In fact, they’re starting to get downright whiny. Every Senior Democrat on every committee in the house signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and all the Republican heads of House Committees threatening them that the Republicans should start "immediate negotiations" on "a balanced deficit reduction plan" in order to head off automatic sequester cuts from taking effect next year:
"We all agree that a sequester starting in January 2013 is not in the country’s best interest and is not the best way to assure responsible deficit reduction. The American people want us to work together to avoid unnecessary economic uncertainty at this crucial time in our recovery. Failure to reach an agreement would have devastating consequences for our economy, small business and the middle class."
The Democrats want to reach a deal before the end of September. But the Republicans have stated that they want a deficit reduction plan that features cuts in domestic spending without raising taxes, and Democrats want to raise taxes. The Republicans have not budged, which leaves the prospect that the sequester and its massive cuts in defense will occur.
The Republicans were ahead of the curve this time. The Republicans agreed to the sequester last August as part of the bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, which entailed roughly $1.1 trillion in cuts to defense and discretionary domestic spending over the next decade. One problem for the Democrats: the cuts in defense were supposed to catalyze the bipartisan fiscal supercommittee to reach agreement on an alternative deficit reduction plan. But when the panel failed in that effort, as Republicans had to know it would -- have Democrats ever cut domestic spending without raising taxes? -- it triggered the sequester, which meant the Democrats would be responsible for cutting the defense budget and social programs, which means they will be open to attacks for their callousness.
The Democrats thought they could play “chicken” by bullying the Republicans into raising taxes. But this time, it’s the Democrats who are squawking.