It’s started already. Rumor is going around Capitol Hill that Republicans, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), might try to get rid of sequestration in return for a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act.
This would be a terrible compromise, and would once again put Congress on the verge of failing to hold to its promise to follow through with the first measurable deficit reduction measure in nearly two decades.
Earlier this month, we suggested this scenario could occur when we warned that tying Obamacare defunding efforts to the Continuing Resolution could create a potential lose-lose scenario:
[D]elaying the increased spending likely to come with the ACA is, on its face, extremely valuable. Unfortunately, that’s not what this debate is about.
Far more is at stake than “defund” advocates like to admit; in fact, there is a lot to lose. Recent gains on spending reform are at risk of being sacrificed on the altar of a rhetorical long shot.
Fortunately, some in the Senate are rightfully defending sequestration: Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has sent a letter to his colleagues asking them to join him in holding firm on sequestration’s spending levels. (The letter is not yet online.) Here is a key section:
As the only major bipartisan deficit reduction bargain in the last fifteen years, the Budget Control Act provided a ten year blue print to restrain federal spending, accepted in exchange for a $2 trillion increase in the national debt limit. The balanced compromise reduced both defense and non-defense spending, but for only two years. Under the bipartisan agreement, total discretionary spending in FY 2014 is capped at $967 billion. Most of this spending would still be financed with borrowed money as the deficit for the year is still projected to be $560 billion.
While we agree as before that halting the massive spending contained in the ACA is a valuable goal, abandoning the first real step in the right direction in years is not the right approach – particularly when what we get in exchange is nowhere near a promised victory. This is why the Jordan/Ryan approach is so wrong-headed.
Defund, delay – of course we support these goals. But let’s not let the prospect of either jeopardize other critical accomplishments like the caps already serving as a restraint on discretionary spending.