Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & Deficit, Obama Opposition, RepublicansLeave a Comment

There's the sequester coming up, and here's what should be of concern to everyone: the severe nature of the cuts, and what can be done to avoid it.

But it looks like the Republicans have opted to play politics instead, and their concern is assigning blame.  They've decided to call it the "Obamaquester".

Finger-pointing is easier than governing, I guess, for Republicans.

Of course, it's untrue that Obama was the origin of the sequester.

In 2011, for the first time in American history, the entirety of the congressional Republican caucus held the debt ceiling hostage. GOP leaders presented the White House with a non-negotiable ransom note: give Republicans over $2 trillion in debt reduction or GOP lawmakers would crash the economy on purpose.

Left with no choice, Obama agreed to negotiate, and accepted over $1 trillion in spending cuts, in exchange for literally no revenue at all. Republicans said this was insufficient, and demanded more than $1 trillion in additional savings — and if the president refused, they'd crash the economy on purpose.

Ultimately, policymakers agreed they needed more time to negotiate additional debt-reduction measures, so they created a mechanism: a "super-committee" that would work on a bipartisan deal. That, of course, failed, when the panel's GOP members refused to compromise.

But policymakers, assuming the super-committee would probably not work out, had a back-up plan widely referred to as "the sequester." The idea was to force both sides to the negotiating table — a sword of Damocles hanging over Washington's head that would be so severe, Democrats and Republicans would have a strong incentive to strike a deal to avoid the drastic consequences.

Both sides put some skin in the game: Democrats would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep domestic cuts, while Republicans would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep cuts to military spending during a war. (Originally, the White House asked that Republicans face a threat of automatic tax increases, but Republicans refused — even hypothetical tax increases were deemed outrageous — so they settled on deep Defense cuts instead.)

 Indeed, at the time, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) bragged about Republicans getting the sequester into the Budget Control Act.

Republicans now want Americans to believe this was all Obama's fault. Let's consider the evidence:

1. Republicans created the debt-ceiling crisis.

2. Republicans wrote the ransom note and named their price.

3. Republicans endorsed, accepted, and voted for this plan, saying they'd accept the consequences.


4. Republicans now refuse to compromise (again) to deal with the mess they created.

So we're supposed to believe this is Obama's fault? That's only true if you ignore literally every detail and pretend reality has no meaning.

As for why GOP leaders are repeating falsehoods and spinning desperately, Greg Sargent's explanation rings true:

Republicans may simply be putting on a game face about the politics of the sequester because they may view it as a necessity at this point. As you may recall, a top GOP aide told Politico recently that a government shutdown fight might be necessary for Republican lawmakers to get the need for an apocalyptic confrontation with Obama “out of their system,” i.e., for “member management purposes.” But The Hill reports that Republican aides have revised this strategy; they have decided the sequester is a better target than the government shutdown to stage this confrontation.

And so the sequester is apparently necessary for rank and file lawmakers to get the need to stick it to Obama “out of their system.” Republicans have defined victory as agreeing to no new revenues whatsoever, so it’s unclear whether there’s any other way out of this for them. Surely some of them view the sequester as a good thing, and surely some genuinely believe the politics of this fight favors the GOP. We’ll see how this plays out, but it seems highly unlikely that they’ll be able to escape damage here.


UPDATE: The Daily Beast actually has put up John Boehner's Powerpoint presentation from June 2011, showing clearly that the sequestration idea came from him.