A “Sequester” Is Not the Same Thing as a “Substitute for the Sequester”


Whose idea was the sequester? Bob Woodward wrote an op-ed yesterday that says it came from the White House. Apparently, in return for raising the debt ceiling, Republicans wanted some kind of automatic trigger that would force everyone to negotiate a future reduction in the deficit, and the only thing Obama’s budget wonks could come up with was the sequester. So they suggested that, and both parties then overwhelmingly voted for it.

Fine. But then there’s this:

The final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester….So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.

This is just damn peculiar. Even phrased the way Woodward did, it’s obvious that these aren’t the same things. The fact that there were no tax increases in the sequester—i.e., in the mechanism used to goad both sides into a future deal—has nothing to do with what the two sides agreed would be in the substitute for the sequester. The details of the substitute were obviously a subject for future negotiation. For chapter and verse on the fact that both sides knew perfectly well that Democrats would propose tax increases as part of the substitute, see Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, and Dave Weigel.

I’m perplexed by Woodward these days. He really seems to have some kind of weird jones against the Obama White House. I can’t quite figure out where it comes from.

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