EXCLUSIVE: McConnell on Sequestration: No Last-Minute Deal
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke with Breitbart News exclusively regarding the upcoming sequestration, slated to hit this Friday. He spoke about the controversial new proposal from Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to give President Obama almost full discretion on how to cut $85 billion from the budget this year, theoretically forcing him to own the distribution of the cuts; he spoke also about President Obama’s obvious photo-op last-minute invitation to the White House. He also talked at length about President Obama’s plan to stonewall the agenda of the American people in order to cast Republicans as obstructionists for purposes of the 2014 elections.
Asked about the Inhofe/Toomey proposal, McConnell stated that any proposal would enshrine the expected cuts into law so that Obama could not escape them. “We cannot cut a penny less than we promised the American people a year ago we would cut, or give the president a penny more in taxes,” said McConnell. “Any proposal we make will be designed to assure that in the end, the cuts happen. The Toomey/Inhofe bill does have some flexibility in it, but it ensures that the cuts happen.
“But,” McConnell continued, “the only thing I can tell you is the Democrats would never let that bill pass because they don’t want Obama to have that flexibility. They don’t want that flexibility, because they believe if he has the flexibility, he owns every unpopular decision. I can tell you with absolute certainty that they do not want that. It’s interesting that both sides can look at the flexibility issue and reach diametrically opposed views.”
In the end, said McConnell, sequestration will certainly proceed as currently structured. Alluding to his recent pledge not to engage in any 11th-hour negotiations with the President or Vice President, McConnell stated, “The sequester is going to happen. There’s not going to be any turnoff. There’s no impending negotiation with the president over cutting less. It’s going to happen.”
What, then is the point of McConnell and other Republican leaders going to the White House Friday morning for the President’s requested photo-op, after which he will undoubtedly cast Republicans as obstructionists? “There’s only one reason to do it,” said McConnell. “To deny him the opportunity to say that we wouldn’t meet with him. It’s that simple.”
McConnell added, “When I do meet with him, I will tell him the same thing I’m telling you. The tax issue is resolved permanently. Our view is that the reductions in spending that we promised a year and a half ago need to be met, and if you and the Democrat majority in the Senate have a better idea, why don’t you take it up? We’ll vote on it.”
But he believes that Obama and the Democrats have no interest in taking up an alternative to the sequestration, because they have no interest in getting anything done on policy. They would prefer to get nothing done, demonize Republicans as obstructionists, and hope to win the House on that platform in 2014. “I’m beginning to believe that’s the case,” said McConnell. “It’s quite a gamble for Obama to keep being divisive for two years and hope it works. It seems that’s his strategy, but I think it’s a big gamble. Historically, the sixth year of a term hasn’t been kind to the president’s party.”
McConnell is willing to deal with a president unwilling to make anything happen for the American people. “It makes my job a lot easier,” he said. “If he doesn’t want to move to the center, we have no incentive to do business with him.”
And if sequestration does happen, McConnell averred, it will be an accomplishment for Republicans. He pointed out, “it’s absurd to argue that the federal government can’t cut 2.4% over the next six months – roughly the amount of money we will borrow this month alone.” But, he stated, “I don’t expect to win the PR argument against one guy with a huge megaphone. If we win this sequester, though, even though it’s a rather small amount of money out of the $3.6 trillion we will spend this year, it will take the discretionary budget baseline back to pre-stimulus levels of 2008. That’s no small accomplishment in a government in which you only control a small portion.”
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).