By Jonathan Easley - 01/27/13 04:38 PM EST
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) predicted Sunday that “the sequester is going to happen,” and blamed Democrats for not producing an alternative set of spending reductions to circumvent the across-the-board cuts.
“We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternative,” Ryan said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Ryan added that the cuts needed to happen because Republicans can’t risk losing the only leverage they have when it comes to cutting spending.
“I think the sequester is going to happen, because that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, we can’t lose those spending cuts, that was to pay for the last debt-ceiling increase, let alone any future increase.”
The sequester, adopted in 2011 as an incentive to force both parties to identify spending cuts, would chop domestic discretionary and defense programs by $1.2 trillion over the next year.
Republicans vow they will not turn off the sequester unless the cost of doing so — $12 billion per month — is offset.
Democrats say any offset must be divided equally between spending cuts and revenue increases, which means Republicans must agree to about $600 billion in tax increases to avoid the sequester.
Speaking on Saturday to conservatives at the National Review Institute Summit in Washington, D.C., Ryan urged GOP prudence in picking political battles. His comments Sunday indicate the sequester is a battle Republicans see as a political winner.
But Ryan demurred on a potential fight with Democrats over the continuing resolution, which expires March 27, and would force a government shutdown if it’s not extended.
“No one is talking about shutting the government down,” Ryan said.
Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Ryan if he didn’t view it as a bargaining chip in dealing with Democrats.
“We’re not interested in shutting the government down,” Ryan responded. “What happens March 1 is spending goes down automatically. March 27 is the moment you’re talking about, when the continuing resolution expires. We are more than happy to keep spending at those levels going on into the future while we debate how to balance the budget, how to grow the economy, how to create economic opportunity.”
But some GOP lawmakers still see leverage over forcing another shutdown.
Speaking to the same conservative summit on Saturday just hours after Ryan, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the Republican Party needed to be willing to force a government shutdown to get its desired spending cuts.
“The continuing resolution and the debt ceiling coming up next couple of months - those are leverage points that are mirror images of the fiscal cliff,” Cruz said. “The result is a temporary or partial government shutdown, and we’ve seen that movie before, in 1995. … The result was some political pain, to be sure… but also the most fiscally-responsible Congress we’ve seen in modern times.”