Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Time to get real

Republican dog and pony show plays politics, misses the point

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Sen. John McCain and two Republican colleagues are scheduled to visit Nellis Air Force Base on Monday afternoon and decry pending defense budget cuts.

Nellis is just the latest stop for McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who are spending their summer vacation holding town-hall meetings on their “Preserving America’s Strength” tour. The senators have visited other military bases to complain about the Pentagon’s budget, which is scheduled to lose $500 billion over the next decade.

They are trying to lay the blame for the budget cuts on President Barack Obama and Democrats, and they are taking their tour through key electoral battleground states.

In a magnanimous gesture, McCain has allowed that Congress, including lawmakers of both parties, could share some of the blame.

But, really, he shouldn’t be so modest. Let’s give credit where credit is due: His party can and should take full credit for the budget cuts. In fact, this should be seen as a hallmark achievement of the Republicans in Congress.

Let’s review how things got to this point:

After months at a political impasse over federal spending and the nation’s debt, Congress last year passed the Budget Control Act. With the hyper-partisan politics in Washington, it was considered a compromise: It increased the amount of debt the federal government could hold in exchange for large budget cuts.

For Democrats, it ended the ugly and dangerous standoff over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans had blocked efforts to raise the ceiling; and as a result, the nation’s credit rating was later downgraded. For Republicans, the Budget Control Act guaranteed at least $1 trillion in budget cuts over the course of a decade.

The tricky part was determining what to cut. A bipartisan congressional “super committee” was appointed to make $1.5 trillion in cuts, and as an incentive for the committee, the deal required $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts if it failed to do its job. The automatic cuts were designed to be so painful that no one in their right mind would allow them to happen.

Well, guess what? They happened because the Republicans refused to discuss raising any new revenue to reduce the nation’s debt. Such is the state of today’s Republican Party, and not just in Congress. Remember: In a debate last year, the GOP’s presidential candidates all said they would not support raising new revenue, even if they had a deal offering $10 in cuts for every $1 in new revenue.

The result of such an all-or-nothing attitude is the automatic budget cuts, including those at the Pentagon, which start to take effect next year.

This all could have easily been avoided had the Republicans been open to negotiating a deal, but they refused. Now, they don’t want to live with the consequences, so they’re taking the political route and trying to cover up their party’s failure.

Thus the visit this week by the three Republican senators, all members of the Armed Services Committee. Their visit will generate attention, but let’s not lose focus. The federal budget and the debt are very serious issues, and Republican obstinacy isn’t helping.

Instead of using their summer break to tour the country and point fingers, these senators should be spending time talking to their Republican colleagues and urging them to back off the blind ideology that brought us to this point.

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