Now that sequester is upon us the White House has been engaging in some serious blaming-shifting for it. They’ve been trying to claim that the sequester was the GOP’s doing despite the fact that the White House came up with the idea in the first place and later signed it into law. President Obama even initially vowed to veto any attempt to undo the sequester. Nevertheless, numerous left-leaning pundits have taken up the case to explain why all of this is really the GOP’s fault.
Time’s Michael Grunwald sums up their argument pretty well in a piece titled: “The Sequester is a Republican-Inflicted Wound.” He notes the sequester had its origins in the debt ceiling debate in 2011, which is true enough. His article includes much huffing and puffing by Grunwald about the irresponsibility of the GOP position that the debt ceiling not be raised without cutting spending. He calls this a “ransom” demand:
The political drama of 2011 was about whether we would default, or whether Obama could give Republicans enough of what they wanted to avoid a default. The president and Speaker Boehner tried to negotiate a Grand Bargain for $4 trillion in long-term deficit reduction, which would have taken the debt ceiling off the table for awhile, but they couldn’t. After their negotiations collapsed, Republicans continued to demand significant deficit reduction as their price for raising the debt ceiling, while refusing to include any new tax revenues in a smaller deal. Obama agreed to some cuts, but the GOP insisted on more. That’s when the White House suggested the sequester: $1.2 trillion in cuts that would be politically unpalatable to Republicans and Democrats, taking effect automatically in January 2013 unless a bipartisan “supercommittee” agreed on a better plan. The sequester was supposed to be so awful that it would force the two parties to come together to avoid it, which turned out to be wishful thinking.
A few points in response. First, Grunwald treats it as a given that the Republicans’s demand for spending cuts is intransigence on their part of but doesn’t view the Democrat’s equally absolute demand for tax hikes as similarly obstinate. Why not? That’s a clear double-standard.
Second, Grunwald writes “ After their big congressional wins in the 2010 midterms, though, GOP leaders declared that the debt was out of control.” Umm, yes, that is because it was and still is a serious problem. Addressing the debt was an act responsibility on their part — one the White House couldn’t bothered with.
Third, the “grand bargain” fell apart because at the last minute Obama caved into pressure on the left and upped his demands for more revenue, i.e. taxes. They had a tentative deal with Speaker Boehner and Obama changed the terms at the last minute. That was why the deal collapsed.
Fourth, the fact that sequester was the White House’s response to failure of the grand bargain talks is entirely relevant. They could have chosen another way to respond. They could have gone back to the deal they had with Boehner. They could have done anything else they could thought of. They chose the sequester instead.
Fifth, the fact that the White House proposed the idea and signed it into law but had no intention of it actually coming into effect does not in any way, shape or form absolve them of responsibility for it. You don’t sign something into law if you are not comfortable with the consequences of said law. Does this really have to be explained to anyone in DC? The only thing the “we never intended the sequester to take effect” argument does is reveal what a cynical maneuver this was in the first place.
Sixth, if the argument was simply that the GOP is responsible for the sequester as well as the White House, that would be one thing. After all, the legislation that created the sequester did pass the GOP-majority house. But the “there’s enough blame to go around” argument is not what is being made here. A reporter at a venerable institution like Time is instead arguing it is a “Republican-inflicted wound.”
Meanwhile, the White House has flat-out lied and said the sequester was the GOP’s idea and is now engaged in a campaign of demagoguery regarding the sequester. But that doesn’t seem to spark the same level of outrage for some pundits.