Representative (and failed VP nominee) Paul Ryan (R-WI) can tell you all about how great sequestration is. Why, he’s been a fan since 2004. Not just a fan — he’s pushed sequestration as the solution, as good governance, since 2004. When he finally got it in 2011, he bragged about it to Fox News. Oh, the conservatives finally got it, he told Sean Hannity! The holy grail of economic discipline is here! WOO HOO!
Ryan explained, “We want to make it very difficult for Congress to avoid this budget discipline.”
Now that it’s here, though, Paul Ryan no likey the sequester anymore. Budget discipline bad.
Watch James Carter’s (of Mitt Romney 47% video fame) Ryan sequester clip collection here:
The first quote is taken from the House floor on June 24, 2004 when Ryan was proposing a sequester as an amendment to the Spending Control Act of 2004.
Here’s Ryan arguing for an amendment he proposed that would put a sequester in place in 2004 (the first quote is in the video above, the rest is provided for context since it was Ryan proposing the sequester):
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin: Mr. Chairman, this is part of our larger effort, which is in our substitute. But what this will do is allow to have a sequester to kick in if Congress exceeds its spending items. Just like the sequesters we have talked about before in the old Committee on the Budget days, if Congress overspends, because we have this in law, a sequester kicks in and brings spending back into conformity with the budget.
Mr. SPRATT. But that is done already under existing law.
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. But we waive our budget caps all of the time under the current system.
Mr. SPRATT. Sure. We would waive them again, put it in a bill, send it to the White House, the President would sign it.
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. This way the President could veto breaking the budget caps early in the process and we could keep to these numbers.
And here are the counter arguments offered against his proposal, and why it was not taken up (my bold):
Mr. SPRATT. Well, I am convinced it will prolong the process, complicate the process, and lead to less results rather than better results. It is something we can long argue about.
Mr. NUSSLE. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. SPRATT. I yield to the gentleman from Iowa.
Mr. NUSSLE. Mr. Chairman, I am not going to change the gentleman’s mind, I understand that. But we have heard a lot today about bringing everybody together. There is nothing like bringing everybody together by the need to pass a law as opposed to just passing a resolution. By doing it by resolution, the House can have a version, the other body can have a version, the President has a version. You can go through the entire year with three versions.
I understand we are not going to change the gentleman’s mind or probably a lot of people’s minds, but what the gentleman is suggesting is by doing it this way, everyone has to come together at least once. That is the reason.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. BASS). The time of the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. SPRATT) has expired. All time has expired.
The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. RYAN).
further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. RYAN) will be postponed.
Okay, so the argument is that everyone has to come together at least once. No wonder Republicans are against it now. They are refusing to raise any revenue — the entire budget must be done their way and only their way or else the economy gets it.
Next clip from January 5, 2007 on the House floor:
Ryan: The reason PAYGO worked well in the 1990s is because it was statutory. If you did not comply, an across-the-board sequestration would take place, and the threat of that was one of the reasons why PAYGO was successful.
The threat of sequestration is one of the reasons why PAYGO was so successful. Got it? Budget discipline good.
Ryan’s statement on the House floor regarding the statutory Pay As You Go Act of 2009 on July 22, 2009:
Ryan: The reason we have a super-majority vote in Congress to break these caps is because we want to make it very difficult. You can never fully tie the hands of a future Congress. We want to make it very difficult for Congress to avoid this budget discipline. We want to make sure that we put a system in place with binding caps that are tough to circumvent, that are backed up with sequesters so that, you know what, Congress actually makes the tough choices.
Oh, so the sequester is all about forcing tough choices in 2009. It’s a great thing in 2009. It’s great when it’s not real.
Ryan on the House floor on July 19, 2011:
Ryan: When it comes to sequester, it’s basically an enforcement mechanism on spending caps.
Gee, do you think Ryan’s been fighting for just such an enforcement mechanism for spending caps ever since he came to Congress? Why, yes, he has, or so he told Fox News just a few weeks later.
Here’s Ryan on Hannity’s Fox News show on August 1, 2011, explaining why he supported sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (my bold and the first part is not in the video but provided for context):
Ryan: Because we’re cutting spending. Look, is this everything I want? Of course, not. Our budget proposed to cut $6.2 trillion. This cuts $2.1 to $2.4 trillion. First thing we get right off the bat is a trillion dollars out of government agency budgets. We actually got discretionary caps in law. I’ve been fighting for these spending caps ever since the day I came to Congress. We couldn’t even get these kinds of spending caps in the Bush administration. This kind of tells you just how far the culture has changed. So, we got $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion in just spending cuts. The president first started off asking us for a blank check, then he asked for a big tax increase, he got none of those, and we kept our pledge, which was we will cut more spending than we will raise the debt limit by. That pledge was maintained.
Notice how Ryan is saying the President got nothing whereas Republicans got 2.1 -2.4 trillion in spending cuts, and yet today, they say the President got everything and so it’s their turn to get nothing but spending cuts. Of course, they are also blaming the President for the sequester that they loved so much.
Ryan: What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money. And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a supermajority vote. We got that in law. That is here. So, the best way you can actually bank that trillion dollar spending cut is to have legal caps in law which we haven’t had since the 1990s. We now have them.
Wow, that’s quite a win for the Republicans, eh? They got their 2.4 trillion in cuts, they got the sequester that they’ve always wanted, they got legal caps in law…. Boy things are going to be tight in DC from now on. A new sheriff is in town and he’s going to whip up some budget discipline!
Wait. Ryan wasn’t lovin’ it so much on May 10, 2012:
Ryan: The select committee, people call the Super Committee, that committee failed to produce a result. And as a result of that, a sequester occurs. And the sequester, according to people on a bipartisan basis, is not good government.
But wasn’t this Ryan’s entire raison d’être? Ryan’s been pushing the great sequester since 2004. Perhaps the sequester that Ryan loved so much in theory shares the flaws of his entire economic theory (based as it is upon a work of fiction, this should surprise no one). Turns out, even Paul Ryan thinks his ideas are “not good government.”
It’s a bit late now. After all, the President was trying to find a way to stop Republicans from killing our economy when the sequester was presented as an appeasement of the very hard-lined ideas you read above from Rep. Ryan.
Republicans finally got the object of their desire (budget discipline) that they threatened the country over, and now that it’s here, now that they can have her, they’ve decided they don’t want her anymore.
Sorry, sequester, they’re just not that into you.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.