In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Tom Cole: GOP Prefers Deep Defense Cuts To Any Revenue

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The sequestration cuts, passed in the 2011 debt limit law, slash domestic and defense spending programs across the board by roughly $1 trillion over 10 years. Congress delayed them until March in the fiscal cliff agreement. Now Republicans, apparently having reached their limit on new revenues, are determined to stonewall Democrats' efforts to replace the sequester cuts with a mix of revenue via closing tax loopholes and targeted spending cuts.

The GOP's negotiating stance is a dramatic shift from their position just months ago, when party leaders characterized the defense cuts as unacceptable and deeply damaging to the military. Back in October, Cole himself warned that "the military will face devastating spending cuts accompanied by massive lay-offs to the defense industry" if the sequester is not averted. The turnaround came last month as Republicans began folding on battles involving the fiscal cliff and debt limit, at which point Boehner told the Wall Street Journal that the sequester is "as much leverage as we're going to get" in forcing Democrats to accept substantial domestic spending cuts.

But defense hawks within the GOP conference have expressed discomfort with using the sequester as a bargaining chip, and Democrats are hoping that the internal pressure will ultimately force them to swallow new revenues alongside cuts to avoid its impacts.

"I think, frankly, there's a split in their caucus," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Asked by TPM if he believes Republicans will ultimately fold, he demurred: "That's the way to avoid the sequester -- a balanced approach."

Cole said Republicans are concerned about the sequester and noted that the House passed a GOP bill last year to replace it - with deep cuts to domestic programs that largely benefit low-income Americans. He likened the situation to the fiscal cliff predicament, but with Republicans holding the leverage this time.

"[Obama] just got that revenue deal with no spending cuts. This time it's sort of our turn to get spending cuts with no revenue," Cole said. "The deadline's coming and it's not likely to move Republicans in any way, shape or form."