It Doesn’t Matter Whose Idea The Sequester Was
I agree with James Joyner’s assessment of the Bob Woodward story and the alleged “threat” he received from Gene Sperling. What strikes me as most significant about it, though, is the fact that it is continuing what may be the most idiotic debate to hit Washington in quite some time. For months now, indeed going as far back as the moment that the Budget Control Act of 2011 became law, both President Obama’s supporters and Congressional Republicans have been in a constant war trying to blame the other party for the existence of the sequester. The Republican side of the argument, of course, is supported by Bob Woodward’s book about the 2011 debt ceiling crisis and the fact that it is undeniable that the sequester itself is an idea that originated in the White House and was apparently the work product of then-Budget Director Jack Lew among others. Therefore, President Obama is incorrect to attempt to place sole responsibility for the sequester on the Republicans. At the same time, though, it’s true that the negotiations that led to the sequester would not have been necessary if Republicans had not insisted in the summer of 2011 that any deal to raise the debt ceiling including spending cuts. It’s also true that the Budget Control Act passed both the House and the Senate with majority Republican support. Therefore, it’s incorrect for Republicans to claim that the sequester, which they now want to see go through, was the President’s idea entirely. As with most of the bad things that come out of Washington, the sequester is one that both parties are equally responsible for.
This brings us to Bob Woodward, because the entire “threat” issue wouldn’t even be a story if it weren’t for the fact that official Washington has spent most of the month of February engaged in a partisan blame game rather than a serious discussion about whether the sequester should really be avoided and, if so, how we should go about doing it. In response to Administration claims that the sequester was a Republican idea, Woodward wrote an Op-Ed piece correctly pointing out the fact that the idea had actually originated in the White House and suggested that the Administration was “moving the goalposts,” and it was that Op-Ed that lead to the exchange between Sperling and Woodward that is in the news today.
In other news, one piece of unimportant information became news because Washington is engaged in a completely pointless blame game over who is responsible for the sequester.In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s responsible. The sequester exists, it’s going to go into effect tomorrow.At that point, the only relevant question is whether we need to do something to retroactively replace it with some other kind of deficit reduction package and what form any such package would take. Just as it has been for the entire month of February, a debate over who’s at fault accomplish nothing but to satisfy the partisans on both sides of the aisle that are addicted to the war of all against all that our political system has turned into. Sadly, I’m sure that we’ll spend more time talking about the blame game than actually getting anything accomplished.