Tom Cole: GOP Prefers Deep Defense Cuts To Any Revenue

February 5, 2013 11:48 a.m.

There’s no way in the world House Republicans would agree to raise any new revenue in order to avoid the upcoming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, a senior GOP lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m all against raising any additional revenue on this. Look, these are written into law,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM between votes. Cole said there are other, preferable ways to make the sequester cuts that he is open to, but new revenue will not be part of the equation.

“We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don’t see any way in the world the sequester won’t happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts. But I don’t see any revenue coming in the picture.”

His comments, which echo the hardline position articulated by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently, came shortly after President Obama’s televised remarks Tuesday afternoon calling on Congress to “delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months” if it cannot agree to a comprehensive solution by the March 1 deadline.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.”

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