What’s the political penalty for the Republican-led Congress, aided by some Democrats, using a gimmick to circumvent the defense spending cuts they had legislated?
Probably none, because the public either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.
In August 2011, Republicans agreed to raise the U.S. debt limit and avoid a default on the country’s obligations. The price exacted for that deal was the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which passed overwhelmingly in both houses.
The law mandated spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years — either through the proposals of a bipartisan “supercommittee” or, if that group of lawmakers failed to reach consensus, across-the-board spending cuts. Known as sequestration, the mandated cuts were designed to hit defense and non-defense spending.
The supercommittee failed when Republicans refused to countenance any tax increases, so sequestration went into effect beginning with fiscal 2013 spending. It hit hard at the Defense Department, where some senior officials thought their funds would somehow be protected.
Since then, one-year defense budget extensions, often passed late, have had a big impact, as Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, explained to a Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.