Ryan on sequestration: White House needs to "put up or shut up"

Out on the campaign trail, President Obama is constantly intoning that Republicans’ failure to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy — a.k.a., to hike taxes on people making more than $250k a year — means that Republicans are perfectly content with cuts to education, cuts to defense, cuts to public-sector jobs, etcetera, as long as they can continue to protect their precious millionaires and billionaires. Or something. It seems that Republicans’ desire to continue to Bush-era tax rates for everyone is ostensibly responsible for the upcoming sequestration cuts, for our humongous national deficit… basically, it seems, for any shortfall in the federal budget. Which is weird, since President Obama’s proposed tax hike wouldn’t amount to all that much revenue anyway and would come at the cost of economic growth. But I digress.

President Obama continues to blame Republicans and their darned obstructionist Congress for their persistent calls for tax cuts, which he claims is a big part of what’s going to harm the Pentagon, and for agreeing to defense cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in the first place — but Paul Ryan is having none of it, reports CBS:

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday condemned President Obama in his harshest terms yet for forcing mandatory defense cuts into last summer’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, saying that Congress has told the president to “put up or shut up” by disclosing how the cuts would be implemented.

Ryan was referring to the Sequestration Transparency Act, a bill that passed both the House and Senate by a bipartisan vote in late July. The president signed it earlier this month, though administration officials have said Congress should devote its energy to avoiding the so-called looming “fiscal cliff” instead of simply probing for details on the consequences.

“The president needs to show us how he plans on putting this in place if he is not going to help us pass legislation preventing it in the first place, so we’re now waiting for that answer,” Ryan said during a roundtable in Fayetteville, home to Fort Bragg.

Ryan also noted that, in the event of a Romney-Ryan White House, their administration would work to undo the automatic defense cuts “retroactively“:

“I don’t want to get too technical, but in January our intention is, if we don’t fix it in the lame duck, is to fix it retroactively once a new session of Congress takes place,” Ryan said in response to a question from an attendee at the defense roundtable.

“Now, we believe that we have a procedural way in the Senate to advance that legislation very quickly and get it to the next president of the United States — who I believe is going to be Mitt Romney — to pass it into law and retroactively prevent that sequester from taking place in January,” Ryan continued. “And that’s our plan. And hopefully, knowing that that’s our plan, that will make it easier for us to get this done in the lame duck, before it takes place in January in the first place.”

Good. I’ve long maintained that it’s pretty darned inexcusable and cowardly that we’re hacking at the military’s budget before even attempting to reform the undeniably-unsustainable entitlement programs that consume that vast majority of our budget and are the long-term drivers of our debt. I agree with Ryan that “the primary responsibility of the federal government first and foremost is a strong national defense” — in my opinion, that’s one of the few areas with which the federal government is supposed to occupy itself, as per its Constitutionally-imposed limits. You know, the Constitution? That old chestnut?