One of the Republican members of the congressional super committee attempted on Sunday to create some wiggle room with regard to President Obama's opposition to changing the penalties of the committee's failure.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) argued that Obama had attached an escape clause to his veto threat of legislation changing the so-called triggers, which would see $600 billion in defense cuts and $600 billion in Medicare and domestic spending cuts go into effect next year.
"I thought that his comments were a little bit more ambiguous than that," he told ABC's "This Week." "I thought he was suggesting that he would veto any attempt to eliminate portions of it. I don't recall him having a categorical veto threat on any chance of the configuration. His own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that if the defense cuts go through as contemplated under existing law it would hollow out our nation's defense. I think there's a broad consensus that too much of the cuts are weighted on our defense's capabilities and it would really cut in deeply in our ability to defend this nation. So, I think it's important that we change the configuration. I would be surprised if the president would simply veto every effort to make any changes."
Even before the super committee announced its failure to come to an agreement, there was chatter that lawmakers would re-configure the contours of the trigger. Both parties have been skittish about the size of the defense cuts and few imagined that the president would stand by those cuts in the midst of a re-election campaign. But the White House has been fairly adamant that the triggers remain both in place and intact, even when pressed about Toomey's attempted reading of the veto threat's fine print. And while the president's actual statement can be read in different ways, he does explicitly say he opposes getting rid of cuts to defense spending.
"I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one," Obama declared after the super committee announced it was disbanding.