Tomorrow’s Cave-In Today

The strange thing about the “super committee” process is that it’s been clear from the beginning that the Democrats will end up surrendering one way or the other. That’s because of the way the “trigger” has been structured. The automatic cuts are supposed to be evenly divided between domestic programs that Democrats want to protect and defense programs that Republicans want to protect, but Democrats also favor protecting those defense programs. Almost from the beginning you’ve heard Leon Panetta and others deploring the terrors of the trigger. That means Democrats have merely re-created the original debt ceiling problem for themselves. They don’t want to agree to an all-cuts deficit reduction, but they really don’t want to experience the alternative.

Republicans, by contrast, have no problem with the defense trigger. As Dave Weigel writes, super committee failure merely means “21 [Democratic] senators are vulnerable to truth-remixing Crossroads GPS ads about how they literally pried guns out of the hands of soldiers.” The two interesting questions are as follows. One is whether Democrats will surrender during the super committee negotiations or wait until the super committee deadlocks and then surrender on separate legislation to reverse the defense cuts. The second is whether in the latter scenario, Democrats will get any of the non-security trigger cuts rolled back alongside the defense ones.