Would the Second Tranche Blow Up?

by Rich Lowry

Some more on the emerging deal. Even Republicans favorable to the deal say the defense cuts are the most problematic part of it, but they argue that they probably won’t ever be triggered. I wonder about that. Let’s assume that normal rules apply in Washington, so the chances are that it’s easier for things not to happen than to happen. In that scenario, the special committee deadlocks and we go to automatic cuts. Then, how can any Republicans possibly in good conscience let the cuts take place? These would be cuts to defense that aren’t part of a well-considered strategic vision, but were put in a deal entirely for tactical political reasons. Republicans would have to stop them. They could stop them in the House, but in the Senate? You can understand the logic of the defense cuts as a way to make the deal work, as noted below, but the real-world consequences would be too serious. The problem with the second tranche and the special committee and all the rest of it is that they are a way to try to force Congress to do things it doesn’t have the political will to do — begin to take on entitlements — so it all gets too cute and convoluted. This is why Capretta counseled the other day making the special committee as toothless as possible.