The government shutdown has been portrayed as a total defeat for Republicans, but the GOP at least can take solace in the fact that the sequester continues, Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes says.
"What has been largely overlooked is that the deal didn't curtail, much less end, the automatic spending cuts known as the budget sequester. And undoing the sequester is what President [Barack] Obama and Democrats wanted most of all," Barnes wrote Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.
The sequester gives Republicans leverage over Democrats on the budget, Barnes noted.
"For Republicans eager to corral federal spending — and that's most of them — the sequester is a gift that keeps on giving."
Ironically, he said, the sequester was a White House idea.
"To say the sequester has backfired for Democrats is putting it mildly," he wrote. "The specter of automatic cuts was supposed to scare members of a Senate-House panel assigned to forge a bipartisan budget accord. If they failed, the sequester would become law. Democrats believed this would never occur. But it did."
He also stressed the importance of Republicans' keeping up their stand against accepting tax increases just to keep the sequester going.
"The sequester is cuts and only cuts," he wrote, noting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is right not to negotiate any easing of the sequester unless the Democrats give ground on entitlements, Barnes says.
Meanwhile, he observed, the Democrats no longer have leverage over taxes because the Bush-era tax cuts have been made permanent for 99 percent of taxpayers.
"This means that Republicans, if they're united, have the ability to block tax increases in the Senate and House. The same is true for proposed changes in the sequester."
To be sure, the Republicans did suffer some losses from the shutdown, Barnes continued, citing the Cook Political Report, which "downgraded the re-election prospects of a dozen GOP House members."
He also noted that the shutdown "exposed an angry rift between younger, more impatient conservatives and older conservatives and moderates."
But for now, he said, the GOP should simply focus on playing defense and protecting the sequester. Not a bad outcome, he concluded.
"Republicans can sit on their hands and experience the joy of trimming the size of government and, thanks to the sequester, watching Democrats gripe about it."
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