Rep. Chris Van Hollen tells Greg Sargent today that Democrats might have more leverage than people think in upcoming budget battles. That's because the sequester for next year requires bigger cuts in defense spending than domestic spending:
This hidden leverage, Van Hollen says, flows from a little noticed wrinkle in the design of the sequester that is only being focused on by Capitol Hill aides right now. Because of that wrinkle, defense programs are set to absorb a much bigger spending cut next year than non-defense programs are. If the sequester is not replaced, defense will be cut an additional $20 billion in 2014 below current levels.
…"There's no negotiating over the principle of parity," Van Hollen said. "If Republicans want to relieve the $20 billion cut to defense, we must increase non-defense spending by $20 billion. You can't boost defense at the expense of other investments. That's got to be a very clear principle."
I followed the link and I still don't understand why the Pentagon cuts are going to be bigger than the domestic cuts. I assume it has something to do with next year's sequester running for a full 12 months instead of the 10 months it ran this year. But that's true for the domestic half of the sequester too. Perhaps it has something to do with domestic spending mostly being monthly expenses, which means all the cuts have already been made on an ongoing basis, while lots of Pentagon procurement spending is multi-year. I'm not sure.
But one way or another, apparently everyone agrees that the Pentagon will get nicked extra heavily next year and budget negotiations are proceeding on that basis. Just thought I'd pass it along.
UPDATE: The answer is here. It turns out that it all hinges on a different definition of "security" between 2013 and 2014.