Republicans on the Super Committee are openly toying with the idea of reneging on the debt limit deal, which created a penalty designed to get panel members of both parties to compromise on cutting the deficit. If they actually try, though, they’ll be rebuking House Speaker John Boehner, who only two weeks ago said he’s obligated to follow through on his commitment.
The penalty, which will be triggered if the Committee fails, would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from both defense programs and Medicare providers. The former was designed to bring Republicans to the table, the latter, Democrats. Now even the committee’s GOP co-chair is saying that if there’s no agreement, he and congressional Republicans will fight to change the defense cuts — in other words, he and others in the Republican will go back on their commitment.
But on November 3, at his weekly press availability, Boehner said he feels “bound” by the debt limit deal, even the automatic defense cuts. “Me, personally? Yes, I would feel bound. It was part of the agreement, and so either we succeed or we’re in the sequester. The sequester is ugly. Why? Because we didn’t want anybody to go there. That’s why we have to succeed.”
Jeb Hensarling and others are calculating that if the Super Committee fails, they can turn that around on Democrats into a fight over defense cuts — heads they win, tails they win. But he’d be defying the GOP Speaker, and would run headlong into President Obama’s veto pen. The politics would get ugly, and if Boehner caved, or his party ran roughshod over him, it would crush whatever trust remains between the two parties’ leaders.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.