Mandatory Budget Cuts From Sequestration Slammed By Republicans As 'Dumb,' 'Terrible'

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are sounding increasingly angry with the deficit-cutting deal, which was pushed through by their own leadership in the House, passing Congress last summer, and requires deep cuts to the military budget starting at the end of 2012.

The Budget Control Act set up the ill-fated Super Committee that was supposed to find up to $1.5 trillion in savings or trigger "sequestration" -- automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion divided between defense and other programs.

The committee failed, and starting in January, the Department of Defense must find more than $500 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. While some Republicans opposed the sequestration scheme at the time, their dissatisfaction is becoming increasingly widespread -- and blunt.

"I thought it was the dumbest idea in a body known for dumb ideas," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday. "It was ill-conceived ... and the penalty clause was just crazy. From a Republican point of view, we lost our way. The party of Ronald Reagan would never have allowed this to be on the table."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) said defense spending should never have been linked to taxes and the deficit.

"You're constantly being given false choices," Rubio told reporters this week on Capitol Hill. "'If you want to save national security, you have to agree to raise taxes that will hurt our economy.' Well, that's a false choice and quite frankly it's a destructive one."

"It's one of the reasons why I voted against this so-called compromise a year ago. It was a terrible idea back then, and now we're seeing how bad it really is," he said.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said Wednesday that he didn't think the sequester would ever really kick in, and that the so-called Super Committee designed to find cuts to stop the sequester would not be effective.

"I think many of us back then who voted against the Budget Control Act didn't like the idea of the Super Committee, and so always figured that the Super Committee would probably arrive at something stupid, dumb or not productive," Walsh told HuffPost. "So yeah, I still hold that opinion as well. We never believed, as well, that there would be enough folks up here who would really let sequestration happen."

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) said the whole sequester idea was based on a phony premise, and that risking funding for the military is irresponsible.

"They somehow made the argument, and it was bought, that if we didn't pass that, we would have to default on the debt, which isn't true," Bartlett said. "I wish that we would have been responsible then. Now it's time."

Even members who voted for the sequester now have second thoughts.

"I thought the purpose of the original sequester was to incentivize the Super Committee to cut a measly 2 percent off this big massive bloated government operation, and it failed to do that," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. "Hindsight may be clear, but at the time it seemed like a good incentive for an awfully small spending cut."

Some lawmakers have positive things to say about the sequester -- if not about their colleagues.

"No, it wasn't a mistake," said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), who recently announced he is not running for reelection. "What it was was, it made sequestration so horrible that if you listen to what [House Speaker John Boehner] said, it was designed to be so disgusting and distasteful for anybody that it would never happen. Well, guess what? It happened."

Now he thinks the push to find some way to undo the deal is less than honorable.

"If we undo sequestration, we're going to go from wherever we are now to 9 percent, 7 percent [in opinion polls] -- it's only going to be friends and family that think we're doing a good because we sold that as, 'If we don't do our work, this horrible things going to happen,'" LaTourette said. "Now, the horrible thing's not going to happen -- maybe -- and so I think that's a black mark on the government."

He also thinks his colleagues are making a fresh mistake in focusing on saving the military budget.

"If you don't do the sequester on defense, where do you think the money comes from? It's not coming from Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid," he said, referring to the fact that those programs are mandatory, and must be funded. "It comes from the smaller and smaller pot of all of the things that the federal government does. Imagine, of the $3.6 trillion [the government spends], we're down to less than $600 billion a year for everything that the federal government does except defend the country. That's crazy."

He favors the sort of bargain that President Barack Obama and Boehner failed to reach last summer during the debt-limit fight.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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