The clock is ticking before the sequester rears its ugly head. The automatic, across the board spending cuts will not just bring annoyances like even longer lines at airports. We will all be more vulnerable as meat inspectors and Pentagon staffers are furloughed, children do not receive essential vaccines, and disaster response resources are slashed. A million people are expected to be out of a job. And that's just the tip of the iceberg
While President Obama has called for a combination of entitlement reform and revenue increases, Republicans have rejected any plan to raise taxes by a penny. Though the proposals put forth by congressional Democrats would not raise marginal tax rates, but rather reduce deductions for things like private jets and moving businesses oversees. In the era in which we live, it can be toxic for Republicans to vote for raising taxes. Republicans quake in their boots fearing the primary attack ads they might face, not to mention the wrath from the Tea Party and the likes of Grover Norquist. However, Republicans also stand to bear the brunt of the blame if the sequester goes into effect. 49% of respondents to a recent USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll said congressional Republicans would be more to blame than President Obama, as opposed to 31% who said the converse.
I propose a win-win situation that will avert the sequester without necessitating that a single Republican congressman cast a vote to increase revenues, all the while sparing Republicans the ire of the public:
All 200 Democrats and 15 Republicans could come to the House floor, while the remaining Republicans stay home. Since there are currently three vacancies, the House of Representatives requires a quorum of 215 votes in order to vote on a bill. Suspending the Hastert Rule, the Republican practice since the 1990s under which the Speaker of the House does not put up a bill for a vote unless it has the support of the majority of Republican members, Speaker Boehner can put up a bill that stops the sequester reforming entitlements and ending loopholes. The bill would only require 108 "yea" votes in order to pass. All of the 15 Republicans, and, for that matter Democrats who fear electoral consequences from voting for the bill, could vote "nay."
The bill would then go to the Senate, where it could pass without a single Republican vote. A filibuster would be unlikely, as Republican senators would fear the backlash from voters who would hold them accountable for the sequester. Not being on record as voting in the affirmative should suffice.
So there you have it. With a little creativity, Washington can stop the sequester in its tracks, leaving just about everyone in a better position. Well, maybe not the private jet owners who would collectively need to pony up the $3 billion that they are currently deducting -- but at least the airports will not shut down and they will be able to get where they need to go in good time.
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