John Boehner and Republicans are balking at Barack Obama's replacement plan, which still includes far more cuts than new revenues. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.)
At midnight, $85 billion in federal budget funds will be sequestered (that is, held back) by the Treasury Department, with the potential to cause real pain for the economy and many Americans if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree to some sort of solution. (For an explainer about how this all came about, see here.)
The two sides are, naturally, quite far apart. The White House has offered a sequester replacement plan that it touts as “balanced” and thus ostensibly palatable to Republicans, though the administration is actually selling itself short: the plan should be quite appealing to the GOP exactly because it is unbalanced. The plan offers $930 billion in budget cuts with only $680 billion in revenue ($100 billion of which comes from Chained CPI, anathema to most progressives).
Republicans, meanwhile, want a sequester solution with no new revenue whatsoever—“The revenue issue is now closed,” House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday—and many Republicans would like the sequester cuts rejiggered to spare defense spending and hit domestic and entitlement programs even harder.
So both sides are now playing the blame game, hoping that the public will get seriously angry about the disruptions caused by the sequester and blame the other side, thus bringing them to the table ready to give concessions.
There is substantial reason to be optimistic that Obama has the upper hand and will “win” this battle. The public appears to be on his side, and serious fractures within the GOP may soon emerge—defense hawks who cannot abide the Pentagon cuts much longer, and rationalists within the party who think the brand is being irreparably damaged.
But for progressives, is it really a win for Obama’s preferred approach to prevail? The emerging consensus is ‘no.’ Some of the cuts Obama offers are plain bad, like his offer to “reform” federal retirement programs and save $35 billion, which means in essence to take $35 billion from the pensions of public workers. Many cuts are inoffensive, and some are good cuts: like reducing certain agricultural subsidies and reducing Medicare payments to big drug companies.