President Obama is setting a trap for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell by threatening to veto defense spending for the entire year unless Republicans back off of their budget cuts.
The veto threat came in a statement of administration policy:
Enacting H.R. 2685 and adhering to the congressional Republican budget’s overall spending limits for FY 2016 would hurt our economy and shortchange investments in middle-class priorities. Sequestration was never intended to take effect: rather, it was supposed to threaten such drastic cuts to both defense and non-defense funding that policymakers would be motivated to come to the table and reduce the deficit through smart, balanced reforms. The Republican framework would bring base discretionary funding for both non-defense and defense for FY 2016 to the lowest real levels in a decade. Compared to the President’s Budget, the cuts would result in tens of thousands of the Nation’s most vulnerable children losing access to Head Start, more than two million fewer workers receiving job training and employment services, and thousands fewer scientific and medical research awards and grants, along with other impacts that would hurt the economy, the middle class, and Americans working hard to reach the middle class.
Sequestration funding levels would also put our national security at unnecessary risk, not only through pressures on defense spending, but also through pressures on State, USAID, Homeland Security, and other non-defense programs that help keep us safe. More broadly, the strength of our economy and the security of our Nation are linked. That is why the President has been clear that he is not willing to lock in sequestration going forward, nor will he accept fixes to defense without also fixing non-defense.
The President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto H.R. 2685 and any other legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments needed for our economy to compete in the future. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and non-defense priorities and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as Members of Congress from both parties have urged.
The White House’s veto threat came shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected demands from Democratic Senate leaders for a budget summit. Democrats have already warned Republicans that they will block the Senate from taking up the bill unless they agree to lift the sequester cuts. Republicans provoked this fight by using a gimmick to get around the defense sequester cuts. The Republican budget upped the funding the account used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By going off the books, Republicans violated the sequester cuts by shifting spending to the war fund.
Republicans are cutting spending for programs that benefit children and seniors to pay their favorite form of pork and red state welfare.
President Obama and Congressional Democrats are setting Boehner and McConnell up. The Republican leaders will have to choose between not funding the military or keeping the sequester cuts. This could all be resolved if Republicans treated every appropriations bill the same way that they treated defense spending. Boehner and McConnell are trying to have their cake and eat it too, but the President and Democrats are standing tall, and they are about to make life miserable for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.