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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Sequester Fight, Not Following the Left’s Playbook



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The Thursday Morning Jolt examines the reports, and repercussions, of claims of chemical weapons being used in Syria, and then this development, closer to home:

Liberals Are Starting to Wonder if They Won’t Win the Sequester Fight After All

Sure, congressional Republicans have a long and distinguished history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And nobody should speak too soon; we’re only 21 days into the national Fallout 3 Simulation that is called the sequester.

But for now, there are some signs that the GOP actually handed the sequester right.

You’ll recall last week I wrote:

Nobody wants a government shutdown; thus it is extremely unlikely that you’ll see one. The GOP is winning the sequestration debate, or at least they think they’re winning the sequestration debate, because the public hasn’t really noticed the cuts. Certainly the markets don’t mind.; A government shutdown would be noticed and for Republicans, they would come across as not merely anti-waste but anti-government and a government shutdown would probably also be bad news for Obama.

Apparently both parties got the memo:

The U.S. Senate today passed legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown, in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation on federal spending. The chamber voted 73-26 to forward on to the House a measure that would keep agencies’ lights on through Sept. 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Republicans there probably will clear it for President Barack Obama’s signature. Legislation currently funding the executive branch expires March 27, and without action by Congress, agencies would begin running out of money.

Now let me offer part of a column from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, who is usually the last guy to declare that the Democrats are in trouble, and that the Republicans have played any cards right:

Maybe I’m wrong about this. But it’s looking more and more like progressives and liberals are going to be facing a tough question: Which is worse, indefinite sequestration or a grand bargain that includes serious entitlement cuts? Seems to me that sooner or later, major players on the left are going to have to stake out a position on this question.

With Republicans seemingly refusing to yield on new revenues, it’s looking increasingly as if they are going to stick with sequestration and gamble that they can ride out the politics until sequestration-level spending becomes the “new normal.” Brian Beutler has a gloomy take on why this is looking likely. Obama, of course, will continue to push for a “grand bargain” that trades entitlement cuts for new revenues, on the theory that the bite of the sequester really is going to be felt over time — the Huffington Post details that job losses really are starting to happen — which could force at least some Republicans back to the table.

It’s unclear to me which of those two endgames is going to happen. But one thing that appears very unlikely is the preferred progressive endgame: As the sequester grows increasingly unpopular, Obama and Dems rally public opinion to force Republicans to replace it with a deal that combines new revenues with judicious spending cuts that don’t hit entitlement benefits. I’m just not seeing any way this happens.

That means that at some point, liberals may well be faced with a choice — should they accept the grand bargain that includes Chained CPI and Medicare cuts, and join the push for that, or essentially declare the sequester a less awful alternative, and instead insist that we live with that?

If you need a moment to go, “mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha,” please take one.

Now maybe within a month or so, the public’s view will change, they’ll hate the sequester with a roaring passion, and endorse tax increases to avoid the continued pain of this 2 percent cut. Or maybe you’ll hear more of an uproar about the potential expense of the Air Force’s fantasy football league.


Tags: Barack Obama , Budget , Congressional Republicans , Sequester


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