Democrats’ ‘Satan sandwich’ starts tasting pretty good

The bipartisan debt-limit deal, famously called a “Satan sandwich” by a prominent Democrat this summer, is looking more heavenly to the left.

Republicans crowed after striking the agreement with President Obama, while congressional Democrats cried foul. Despite the White House’s endorsement of the bill, 95 House Democrats voted against it.

ADVERTISEMENT
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the Budget Committee, subsequently said Republicans called Obama’s bluff. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he got 98 percent of what he wanted in the deal. 

Three months later, members of both parties are looking at the deal much differently.

A GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity told The Hill that “it’s the 2 percent that’s killing [Boehner] … I’ve never understood why we thought 12 people could come up with a solution any better than we could.”

With the supercommittee deadlocked, the sequestration cuts of $1.2 trillion are now likely to be triggered. Those reductions would hit national security programs, but not call for structural reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security.

Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services committees were wary of putting defense cuts in the trigger, but Democrats essentially said the GOP would have to choose between tax increases or cuts to the military. Republicans opted for the latter, despite major concerns expressed by House Armed Service Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

Now, in sharp contrast to this summer, Democrats say they are in the driver’s seat. They note that Republicans are already vowing to torpedo the sequestration cuts to the Defense Department, something Democrats say they will not go along with. 

Many Democrats would prefer the sequestration cuts over a deal that would make major reforms to entitlement programs.

 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who voted against the debt deal on Aug. 1, is openly rooting for the super-panel to fall short. 

“I hope that they cannot reach an agreement,” Nadler told Capital New York.

Nadler favors major cuts to the military — which could happen in 2013 if Congress cannot pass a deficit-reduction bill.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who dubbed the debt deal a “Satan sandwich,” has tempered his critique.

He, along with dozens of congressional Democrats and Republicans, has called for the supercommittee to “go big” and find deficit savings in the $3 trillion to $4 trillion range. Part of that savings, Cleaver has made clear, should come from the expiration of the Bush tax rates. 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted last week that the supercommittee will fail, sparking a lot of chatter on Capitol Hill that he and other Democratic leaders prefer such a scenario. Schumer declined to comment on Wednesday.

House Financial Services ranking member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said, “Rather than a bad deal from the supercommittee, I would prefer a situation in which we had the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and sequestration and we could then work those two together — use revenue from letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the very wealthy as a way of moderating the blow of sequestration.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, suggested recently that the panel’s failure would be preferable.

“We can maneuver those [automatic cuts] around, and quite frankly, that might be the better path to take,” Harkin said last month on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program. 

A source close to GOP leadership pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pressed for the supercommittee. 

“The supercommittee was Harry Reid’s idea, and it is his responsibility to come to the table and make it work. The fact that some of his members have openly rooted for failure is shameful,” the Republican aide said.

Some frustrated GOP lawmakers told The Hill that Obama wants the supercommittee to fail, claiming that would bolster his reelection effort. 

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) believes that his party conceded too much in the debt-limit deal with the White House.

“I didn’t vote for it … had I thought that we didn’t [give up too much], I would have voted for it,” the freshman lawmaker said.

As a result, Democrats are using the situation as leverage in their attempts to prod Republicans to raise taxes, he added. 

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), who backed the debt agreement, said this week that he “would have liked to see [the deal be] more comprehensive.”

Republicans privately acknowledged they are more fractured than they were in July and early August. A handful of GOP legislators have recently bashed anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s tax pledge while others have defended it, claiming Republicans should not even be considering raising taxes.