The Dreaded Linkage Appears

With most observers being exceptionally pessimistic about the president’s ability to secure a majority in the House for a use-of-force resolution authorizing a strike on Syria, we are seeing the first signs of GOP interest in linking a “yes” vote on Syria to administration concessions on other issues. A couple of flares went up on Sunday Shows, per this report from WaPo’s Naraj Chokshi:

Republicans on Sunday sought to tie recent military funding cuts to the current debate over authorizing military force in Syria in response to that government’s alleged use of chemical weapons on its own citizens.

“The president in the last couple years has done the surge in Afghanistan while cutting the military budget, flew missions over Libya while cutting the military budget, changed to a Pacific strategy while cutting the military budget and now this,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re asking them to do more with less.”

Congress’s inability to agree to a budget deal last year set in motion the across-the-board spending cuts under sequestration that have affected many agencies as well as the Defense Department.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) echoed McKeon’s argument on CNN, saying “repeatedly this president is saying do more with less even to the point that the day before he starts saying let’s go to war with Syria, he cuts their pay.”

This could, of course, represent just an excuse for opposing a strike on Syria, or perhaps an anticipatory assignment of blame if there is a strike and it goes wrong. But many congressional Republicans have long looked for a lever to separate domestic from defense sequestrations so as to preserve or increase the former while canceling the latter. And there’s no opportunity quite like a potentially close House vote near in time to a series of momentous fiscal votes to get a previously unimaginable deal on the table.

I sorta doubt this or any other “linkage” will be entertained by the administration, since it would touch off a feeding frenzy that would soon involve demands for funds cutoffs for Planned Parenthood or approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. But the acrid smell of destructive deals will be in the air this week.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.