Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's threat to let steep cuts hit the Pentagon seems to be working, as some staunchly anti-tax Republican Senators appear to be warming to revenue increases. The Democratic leader's high-stakes gambit materialized last month when he vowed to let $600 billion in automatic defense cuts go into effect unless Republicans agree to revenue increases. Republicans initially balked at the threat, saying Reid's brinkmanship would gut the nation's defenses and slash tens of thousands of private sector jobs. But remarkably, some Republicans, including hard-right members of Congress, are starting to buckle under the specter of widespread defense cuts.
Traveling with Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, The New York Times' Jonathan Wiessman said the senator is now "openly talking about revenue increases to offset the costs." Shrugging off the "no new taxes" pledge enforced by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Graham said “I’ve crossed the Rubicon on that.” And he's not alone. According to the Times hard-right members of the House, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney, Joe "You Lie!" Wilson and Jeff Duncan have also said they're willing to talk revenue increases.
The pressure by Reid, arguably one of his savvier negotiating tactics, is putting the squeeze on Republicans in military-heavy states such as South Carolina who reap campaign contributions from defense contractors who employ tens of thousands of workers. The way Republicans may bend, Reid told the Times is by closing tax loopholes or placing higher fees on federal oil leases, ideas that are "expanding in his party." Adding to that sentiment, Politico's Seung Min Kim quotes GOP Rep. Mike Coffman saying anyone coming up with alternatives to the automatic cuts, such as revenue increases, "would be open to attack to cutting defense too deeply."
It's unclear how many other Republicans will bend as well, but clearly Reid has created a divide between military-dependent Republicans and those who aren't and would rather eat dirt than raise revenues. Officially, the National Republican Congressional Committee is attacking Democrats for not accepting their plan that shields the Pentagon from cuts while picking up savings on cuts to social welfare programs. “These Democrats are already on record opposing common-sense reforms that would avoid these devastating cuts to local jobs and America’s military,” says Paul Lindsay, an NRCC spokesman. But thus far Democrats have almost uniformly opposed this deal because it offers nothing for them. No one knows which side will blink first but it's clear that some GOP members are starting to show some wiggle room.