How the hell did we get here?
Let’s back up…
Republicans, excited by the Tea Party and their successes in the 2010 midterm elections thought they finally found a message the resonated with the voters: cut back the size of government and raise the debt limit only if matched by equal spending cuts.
Then it got very complicated.
After agreeing to some spending cuts, the Obama White House and congressional Republicans couldn’t agree how to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
So they created the sequester.
They, not just the President or the Congress.
The idea – $600 billion cuts in defense spending cuts that Republicans weren’t supposed to like and $600 billion in non-defense spending cuts that Democrats weren’t supposed to like.
It was supposed to be so bad and bitter it would force the two parties to make a deal.
That turned out flat wrong.
The Super Committee, charged with coming up with a compromise, fiddled around and went home.
During all this, the deficit-hawk folks in the GOP only got more numerous in both the House and Senate.
Every attempt for a Grand Bargain failed.
In 2011, both sides backed off to let the election decide the fiscal fight.
At the end of 2012, they only dealt only with the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.
They kicked the can down the road.
That fiscal-cliff deal on the tax cuts cost House Speaker John Boehner a lot political capital with fellow Republicans, and that made fixing the sequester standoff even harder.
There’s plenty of blame to go around.
The White House made a major miscalculation thinking that defense spending would something that would force the GOP to go along.
It didn’t work and will not going forward.
For the White House, all it has now is hope the Republicans will cave in.
While the public seems to blame the Republicans more than the Democrats for where everything is right now, that could change.
They can defend the sequester at home because they can say, “We said we’d cut spending and the size of government, the President tried to stop us but we wouldn’t let him.”
A bad spending cut for many Republicans is easier to explain than any tax hike.
So if the White House really wants to stop the sequester, it might have to come up with its own set of $85 billion in spending cuts to replace it.
And that’s something Obama doesn’t want to touch.
In this political, dysfunctional, go-screw-yourself environment, there is no way any Republican can politically survive doing anything short of hanging in.
Welcome to the new normal.
Please enjoy your stay.