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The Looming Republican Crackup Over the Sequester

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan testifies
on Capitol Hill in Washington on  March 20, 2012, before the House Armed
Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan.

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 20, 2012, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan. Photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Since the first days of the Obama administration, the reigning dynamic in Washington has been an intense, at times apocalyptic, struggle over the size of government. It shaped the battle over the original stimulus, over health-care reform, and over each of the endless series of budget crises—the continuing resolution to fund the government, the debt ceiling increase, the fiscal cliff—that have threatened to blow up Washington (or worse). It shaped the presidential race, too.

The reason why this dynamic has held for so long is that it ordinarily unites the disparate factions of the Republican coalition. But beneath the surface, there’s a lot that coalition doesn’t agree on, and the next big budget battle due to arrive at month’s end—automatic spending cuts known as “sequestration—threatens to expose the rift between one wing of the party (antitax Republicans) and another (defense Republicans).