Republicans already planning to prevent defense cuts

The Super Committee this afternoon officially announced its failure — but, even before that announcement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon was already pledging to reverse any cuts to defense engendered by that failure. From Politico:

“I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military,” he said.

The law that created the 12-member, bipartisan panel in August requires $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years — half of which would come from the Pentagon and the rest from domestic cuts — if committee members could not agree on a plan to save at least as much in another way.

The panel was on the verge of admitting defeat Monday afternoon, though several panel members gathered in Sen. John Kerry’s office in an eleventh-hour bid to reach agreement.

The deficit deal reached last summer already calls for some $350 billion in cuts to defense spending over 10 years; the $600 billion would come on top of that.

All of that is comforting from a national security standpoint, but underscores why the Super Committee deadline wasn’t a deadline at all. The Fix’ Chris Cillizza explains:

Sequestration — the package of cuts hitting politically sensitive areas including defense —doesn’t trigger until January 2013, which, coincidentally, comes after the November 2012 election. (And, yes, we are being sarcastic.)

That gives Congress — at least in theory — an entire year to figure out how to avoid or undo sequestration. And, it allows the American public to have their say before Congress makes any final decision on the best way forward to preserve our fiscal house. (See our mention above about Congress as a reactive institution.)

We’ve written before that Congress approaches climactic legislative decisions like a college student writing a term paper. They wait, wait, wait until the last possible minute then work like mad to get it done before the deadline. (Mrs. Fix, we are looking at you.)

The reality of the supercommittee is that the paper — or at least the bulk of it — isn’t due for another year. And no one writes a paper a year in advance. Not even huge nerds.

So, what? Are we just stuck waiting around for any meaningful action on debt and deficit reduction until after November 2012? It appears so. And why? Because, for all that the 2010 midterm elections seemed to be a mandate to curb spending, that mandate wasn’t quite loud enough. The Super Committee failure is yet one more predicted political reality that makes clear just how vital the 2012 Congressional elections will be.