Sequester week: for accuracy call it the #Teaquester or the #Boehnerquester

The Republican-led House voted itself a vacation this week without one Democrat voting for it. House members will not return to work until Monday, February 25, which gives them exactly four days to work on a solution to the sequester.

Speaker John Boehner writes in the Wall Street Journal that the deep automatic spending cuts set for the end of the month were President Obama’s idea. But a July 2011 PowerPoint obtained by John Avlon shows the opposite may be true. “It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011… It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that ‘sequestration’ was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending–the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.” — Political Wire

At this point, it’d be a mistake to suggest the bipartisan talks have stalled, since there [are] no talks — Democrats have unveiled a sequester alternative, and Republicans have not; Democrats have said they’re open to compromise, and Republican have said they aren’t. The probably of avoiding next week’s mess is quickly approaching zero. With this in mind, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a 900-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the subject, devoted almost entirely to a desperate attempt to avoid blame. In the larger context, it’s only mildly annoying that Boehner invests more energy in pointing fingers than working on a solution, but it’s far worse that the Speaker peddles blatant falsehoods, lacking enough respect for the public and the political world to be honest with them… — Steve Benen

As the deadline nears, many Republicans are not only unwilling to look for bipartisan solutions to stop the sequester – they are gleefully looking forward to its impact on American families:

  • “It’s pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect…Read my lips: I’m not interested in an 11th-hour negotiation.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • “Sequestration will take place…I am excited. It will be the first time since I’ve been in Congress that we really have significant cuts.” – Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
  • “Sequestration needs to happen…Bottom line, it needs to happen and that’s the deal we struck to raise the debt limit.” – Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
  • “I think sequester’s going to happen…I think people want it to happen.” – Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • “We’re willing to let it go through till they (Democrats) respond to us.” – Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)

“That’s the biggest problem with the Republicans. They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.” [Former Virginia governor and conservative Republican Jim Gilmore] says he has urged GOP leaders to back down and compromise to prevent the so-called sequester spending cuts from going through – “I keep telling them, you’re going to lose this” – and he has strong words for congressional leaders’ focus on deficit reduction as their primary economy goal. “Above all things,” he says, “they shouldn’t be talking about debt and deficits. Because the left’s got an answer for them.” That answer would be, raise taxes, which Gilmore says is the opposite of what the economy needs right now – and he’s quite critical of Democrats for pushing tax increases. But spending cuts won’t help the economy either, he says. — Wonkblog

President Barack Obama lashed out against Republicans, saying they are unwilling to raise taxes to reduce deficits and warning that the jobs of essential government workers, from teachers to emergency responders, are on the line. [...] Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world. [...] “People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again. So far at least, the ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or the biggest corporations,” Obama said. “So the burden is all on the first responders, or seniors or middle class families.”

The most likely scenario, according to officials on both sides of Pennsylvania Ave, is that Congress will kick the can on the sequester until the government’s budget authority runs out on March 27. Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution by that date, or the government will be shut down. Indeed the shutdown is a more acute, if routine, threat — with nearly all of the government ceasing to operate immediately instead of broad-based spending reductions.

Next month, our government will be subject to devastating across-the-board spending cuts, fed furloughs, and / or a government shutdown — all of which will be a disaster for most Americans, the economy, national security, future growth, and reducing unemployment. The entire country is now at the mercy of the two sides of the GOP: all the conservative extremists who were parked in Congress by tea party ‘patriots’ and Jebus freaks who live in deep red gerrymandered districts, and the Republican Establishment whose only allegiance is to the wealthy elite. As of now, the majority of us are just hostages.

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