Whose Idea Was the Sequester?

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This is hardly the most pressing issue in the world, but it’s been niggling at me all morning. Here is Charles Krauthammer today:

For the first time since Election Day, President Obama is on the defensive. That’s because on March 1, automatic spending cuts (“sequestration”) go into effect — $1.2 trillion over 10 years, half from domestic (discretionary) programs, half from defense. The idea had been proposed and promoted by the White House during the July 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations. The political calculation was that such draconian defense cuts would drive the GOP to offer concessions.

For some reason, this has become an article of faith on the right: the sequester was Obama’s idea, and now he has to live with it. I’m not sure why this is so important to them, but it is.

As it happens, that’s not how I remember things, but I figured maybe my memory was faulty. It wouldn’t be the first time. So I googled up some news stories from late July 2011 to see just whose idea this was. Here’s one from the 25th: “The back and forth began when House Republicans rolled out a two-stage deficit reduction plan that would…tie a second increase early next year to the ability of a new bipartisan Congressional committee to produce more deficit reduction measures.” Here’s another from the 29th: “Republicans have endorsed a Democratic idea of setting up a special committee to find additional savings.” And this from the 30th:

Mr. McConnell called Mr. Biden early Saturday afternoon….The deal they were discussing, this person said, resembled the bill that Mr. Boehner won approval for in the House on Friday….set up a new bipartisan committee….A failure of the new committee to win enactment of its proposal could then set off automatic spending cuts across the board, including to entitlement programs.

So that’s one story suggesting it was a Republican plan, a second suggesting it was a Republican plan based on a Democratic idea, and a third suggesting it was the result of talks between McConnell and Biden. So I guess I’m still murky on this. Was it initially a Democratic idea? Something that sprang forth from the forehead of Zeus? Or just one of those eternal ideas that crop up over and over in Washington DC and just happened to emerge yet again from the sludge of last-minute talks in late July?

Anyone happen to know if there’s a definitive answer to this?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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