The measure would override the $78 billion in defense cuts set take effect January 2013 as a backstop in last August's debt limit law. Additional cuts are in place for the following nine years. President Obama and Democrats aren't happy with the so-called "sequestration" cuts either, but they insist they won't roll them back unless Republicans agree to a balanced deal that combines spending cuts with new revenues taken from wealthy Americans, the latter of which Republicans have blocked for years.
The measure reflects a GOP effort to go to bat for the defense industry in an election year. It also helps them pin the blame for inaction on Democrats, who control the more closely divided Senate.
"Intended as a mechanism to force action, there is bipartisan agreement that the sequester going into place would undercut key responsibilities of the federal government," reads a recent House GOP leadership memo on the reconciliation bill.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, released a report highlighting the ways the GOP bill would exacerbate poverty. "Next week Democrats will continue to draw a strong contrast between the lopsided Republican plan to protect tax breaks for powerful special interests at the expense of the rest of America," he said last Thursday. In February, 127 House Dems wrote a letter to Obama saying the military cuts are part of the solution to deficit reduction and should be kept in place.
Unless Republicans drop their anti-tax absolutism, Congress isn't likely to reach an agreement on replacing the defense cuts at least until after the election.