“The sequestration will not happen,” except if it does

posted at 10:01 am on November 6, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Seeking to reassure the defense community (for instance, the many Northern Virginia defense bureaucrats and contractors who could decide the direction of the swingy commonwealth’s 13 electoral votes) before the election, President Obama flatly declared that “the sequestration will not happen” during the final presidential debate. (The president also claimed that “the sequester is not something I’ve proposed,” trying instead to pin the blame for the idea of the deeply unpopular half-a-trillion-dollar defense-budget slashing on Congress, but that doesn’t seem to be true, either).

Those were some mighty bold words, considering that the issue has divided Washington for months and that Obama has said he’ll veto any fiscal-cliff solution that doesn’t include his proposed tax hikes, to which Republicans in turn have argued that they will not agree. While some interested parties are betting on a deferral, there are still others in the defense community, as Politico points out, that aren’t at all certain that Congress will solve the problem, and especially not in the lame-duck Congress prior to the January deadline:

…Now it appears that no matter who wins the White House, the lame-duck Congress is unlikely to have the last word.

That’s the consensus of defense watchers across Washington, several of whom told POLITICO they even expect sequestration to take effect, at least for the first few weeks after its official start date, Jan. 2. …

If Obama wins, Democrats could try to improve their negotiating position by allowing sequestration to take effect and letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire — forcing Republicans into a corner on two top GOP priorities. …

If Romney wins, Republicans also could improve their negotiating position by waiting until January — once they take control of the White House — to haggle with their Democratic counterparts.

Politico goes on to argue that many think the sequestration actually going into effect wouldn’t be imminently “devastating,” as the effects wouldn’t all be immediate and it would give whatever Congress today’s election gives us more time to work out a deal. The point is, however, that the sequestration would go into effect, and while the federal government decides to take its sweet time bargaining over the cuts, the lingering uncertainty over the final scenario negatively effects both military policy and a whole heap of jobs.

But, I suppose it’s easy to be so glib and blithely declare that something that could most definitely happen, simply will not happen, when your reelection is at stake, no matter how adversely it may effect military operations or people’s livelihoods. It’s whatever.


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