In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Top Defense Dem: GOP Must Blink First To Avoid Pentagon Cuts

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"Sequester" is a technical term for an enforcement mechanism built into the 2011 debt limit law. That agreement tasked the now-defunct Super Committee with reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. In the event of its failure, though, the law included a penalty -- including hundreds of billions of dollars to cuts to both defense programs and Medicare providers -- meant to force members of both parties to deal with budget deficits in a balanced way.

It failed anyhow.

The Super Committee called it a day back in November, and now a number of Democrats, but mainly top Republicans (including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor) are trying to swap out the defense cuts for cuts to non-defense programs. That's unacceptable to Levin, unless Republicans finally agree to include raising tax revenues from upper income Americans in the mix.

"The sequester...is used to force us to deal with the deficit. And it will. I predict it's going to succeed," Levin said. "But it will only succeed if it's kept intact. That sword of Damocles can not be splintered. It's got to be kept intact if it's going to have its effect of basically forcing the Republicans, who have taken an ideologically rigid step against any new revenues, to relent and reflect what public opinion clearly is -- that there is room for additional revenues, particularly in closing the loopholes [and] in restoring that higher rate for upper bracket Americans."

Many Democrats would like to avoid the defense cuts, too. Some might even be willing to replace those cuts with cuts to separate programs, without seeking new revenue. But the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman will have huge influence in how that all washes out -- and he says ending the GOP's anti-tax absolutism has to be the priority.

"The dam has got to be broken on revenues and what will break it, I believe, is sequestration," Levin said. "And it can't be divided and splintered up. It's got to be kept in tact. And that's what I believe will move the rigid ideologues to deal finally with revenue."