When the sequester occurs on March 1st and the attendant spending cuts totaling $85 billion take effect, either the White House or Congressional Republicans will get blamed for the resulting chaos; both sides are betting the other will be held responsible.
The GOP is confident they can win the public to their side: it was Obama who originally proposed the sequester, declared during his reelection campaign that it would never happen, and then later signed it into law.
They also note that the White House and its minions in Congress have proposed replacing the cuts with the “Buffett Rule,” which imposes a minimum 30 percent tax on millionaires.
A poll by the Republican Winston Group gave them additional hope; it found that 52 percent of those polled preferred the GOP plan to replace the sequester with spending cuts they deemed responsible to 40 percent who felt that the cuts should be replaced with higher taxes.
The fact that Obama wants to squeeze them doesn’t bother the GOP: they believe that the two times Obama successfully took that route, the December 2011 fight over extending the payroll tax cut and 2012’s fiscal cliff battle, Republicans had to act because otherwise taxes would have risen. This time, they note grimly, it’s spending that will be cut instead if they fail to reach a deal with Democrats. Republicans feel that Americans will be more sympathetic to spending cuts than tax increases.
One House GOP leadership aide asserted, “Despite the president’s repeated calls for even more tax revenue, Americans do not support trading spending cuts for higher taxes. They understand that the tax debate is now closed.” In addition, the GOP’s proposal for a chained consumer price index has even been proposed by Obama himself in the past.
Meanwhile, Obama and his team are convinced that his ability to communicate will keep the public on their side. The president is already accusing the GOP of protecting the rich, as he said Tuesday:
Republicans in Congress face a simple choice. Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That’s the choice.
At a certain point, Obama’s class warfare arguments will become stale, and wither on the vine. The GOP is betting on that time being now.