The big budget news today (other than the president’s submitted FY 2013 budget) is that Republicans have apparently surrendered on the big extenders bill. They’ll apparently (yes, I said it twice, there’s at least a fair amount of uncertainty still) allow the payroll tax cut, the unemployment benefits extension, and the Doc Fix to go through for the rest of the year unfunded, rather than compromise on taxes or otherwise find offsets that both sides can live with.

I wrote this up over at Plum Line in the context of the GOP war on budgeting, but what I should add is that this is almost certainly a preview of what eventually happens on the military spending cuts in the scheduled sequester under the debt limit deal. Recall that the Budget Control Act set up a “Supercommittee” to come up with deficit reductions, and when that (predictably) failed, the next step is a future sequestration that would take all of the deficit reductions out of the spending side, very much including military spending. Already, hawkish Republicans have suggested trading in those defense cuts for something else. Eventually, they’ll do there what they did today: they’ll propose just eliminating the defense cuts with no offset. The question then will be whether Democrats have the leverage (and the inclination) to trade cuts to Democratic priorities for cuts in defense. I’m not going to predict at all how it will turn out. I could picture a GOP bill to restore the defense cuts (not offset, and therefore less deficit reduction) passing Congress and getting signed. I could picture that GOP bill getting blocked in the Senate. I could picture a negotiated lowering of all proposed cuts, or even a negotiated agreement to get rid of the sequester entirely (presumably with some window dressing, perhaps another commission or another process reform).What I can’t imagine is Republicans agreeing to sacrifice other GOP priorities, especially on taxes, to fund the military spending they want. They would almost certainly prefer a larger deficit to that.

Of course, all of that is assuming we still have divided government in some form when it all gets worked out; if either party captures Congress and the presidency, things will be different.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.