Conservatives Flip-Flop On Sequester Budget Cuts

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In an ironic twist, a swath of conservatives who opposed the 2011 legislation that created the painful spending cuts known as the sequester now insist that it is the law of the land — an example of responsible budgeting that must not be altered.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted against the Budget Control Act, told a conservative news outlet Monday he’s soured on an emerging bipartisan agreement that promises to relieve some of the cuts, which Democrats and many Republicans believe are unsustainable.

“There is a recurring theme in Washington budget negotiations,” Paul told the Daily Caller. “It’s ‘I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.’ I think it’s a huge mistake to trade sequester cuts now, for the promise of cuts later. I cannot support a budget that never balances nor can I support a deal that does nothing to reduce our nation’s $17.3 trillion debt.”

In a move that is causing consternation among House Republicans who want a budget deal, Heritage Action, the deep-pocketed activist group, also criticized the emerging budget agreement aimed at mitigating the across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs, arguing that the sequester must remain in place.

That’s a different tune from 2011, when the influential group not only opposed the Budget Control Act — the law that raised the debt limit and created the sequester cuts as an incentive to reduce the deficit — but called on all members of Congress to vote against it.

“The deal relies on an insufficient level of cuts, a ‘super committee’ tasked with brokering a grand bargain that will lead to massive tax hikes, massive defense cuts, or both,” Heritage Action said at the time. “It remains insufficient to the task at hand and the standards which Heritage Action for America has set forth during the course of the debate.”

In the House, a letter spearheaded by Republican Reps. Mick Mulvaney (SC), Jim Jordan (OH) and Steve Scalise (LA) — all three of whom voted against the Budget Control Act in 2011 — insists the sequester must be continued. The letter to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor aims to subvert the budget deal being negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the budget chiefs.

“The Budget Control Act is the law of the land,” the Republican congressmen wrote. “Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen.”

They urged Boehner to bring up a stopgap measure to continue funding the government at the sequester level of $967 billion in 2014 when money expires on Jan. 15.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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