With Budget Deal, John Boehner Undoes His Only Achievement

The new budget deal negotiated by outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner breaks the sequester caps to spend some $80 billion dollars, evenly divided between defense and domestic spending.

The deal also raises the debt ceiling until March 2017, and trades small reforms to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program for a repeal of a small part of Obamacare that Democrats feared would spike premiums. But for Boehner, it is a reversal.

As I wrote last month, when Boehner announced his resignation, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was his sole real achievement. At the time, the Speaker held the line against President Barack Obama’s demand for new taxes, and pulled a reluctant Tea Party cohort into line behind a deal to raise the debt ceiling in return for A) a comprehensive plan to tackle deficits and debt, or B) a “sequester” that forced automatic caps on defense and domestic spending.

Plan A failed, so plan B it was.

In 2013, Obama demanded the removal of the sequester caps, even though they had originally been suggested by the White House. He presented the American public with a “parade of horribles” that would result if the sequester were not undone.

But Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both held their ground, and Congress reduced spending for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War.

Now all of that is undone. Republicans are supposed to be glad, because an urgent set of foreign policy crises have emphasized the need for defense spending.

Yet that should come from cuts elsewhere. It was unfortunate to make defense solely a Republican priority in 2011, and it is a mistake today to let Obama off the hook–especially after he just vetoed defense spending.

This budget deal may survive. What is left of Boehner’s legacy will not.


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