Mitt Romney is running against military spending cuts enacted last year in the bipartisan debt limit agreement, calling them an “extraordinary miscalculation.” The problem: his own running mate Paul Ryan voted for the debt deal, and was accused in a Sunday interview of wanting it both ways.
“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it,” Romney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.”
Romney was referring to the half a trillion dollars in automatic defense cuts — known as sequestration — that will take effect on Jan. 1 unless Congress passes an alternate way to cut spending. The deal, negotiated last summer between the White House and Republicans, included unpopular cuts as a mechanism to force an agreement on additional deficit reduction — but that never happened.
Now, with less than two months to go before the election, the Romney campaign is placing the blame for the looming defense cuts squarely on President Obama.
The defense spending cuts would have a particularly harmful impact in Virginia and North Carolina, two battleground states that could decide the election, making the sequestration issue a major theme for the Romney campaign. But it also puts Romney in the position of blasting a plan his running mate not only voted for but called a “victory” last summer.
“The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy,” Ryan said in August 2011. “I applaud Speaker Boehner’s leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama’s demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls.”
Well before joining the Republican ticket, Ryan and his House GOP colleagues passed a bill to repeal the cuts and shift them to domestic programs such as food stamps. Democrats also want to roll back the cuts but insist that new tax revenues must be part of the mix, lest the burden be placed entirely on middle- and low-income Americans.
As Romney’s running mate, Ryan has sought to distance himself his earlier support for the debt deal, blasting it on the campaign trail and on the Sunday talk-show circuit.
“We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere,” he said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We’ve done that, the President hasn’t.”
The Obama campaign is eager to exploit the contradiction between Romney and Ryan on the issue. “He voted for the sequester, he voted for the Budget Control Act,” White House adviser David Plouffe said on “Face the Nation.” ”He was running away from them with the kind of pace I guess he ran in that fictional marathon you asked him about.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.