It’s been nearly three weeks since President Obama issued the sequestration order. Across the country, newspapers carry reports of furloughs, airport closings, children kicked out of Head Start. The consequences are beginning to snowball. But lawmakers have reacted to the bad news with a collective shrug.
In the same week Congress is expected to pass government funding legislation that effectively locks in sequestration until the end of September, an unexpected reality is dawning on Washington: as bad as sequestration is, and was intended to be, it’s not bad enough to do what it was designed to do.
That’s left Democrats resigned to malfunctioning and underfunded government in perpetuity, and Republicans confident they can weather the coming months and turn sequestration spending levels into a new normal.
“A decision was made by Republicans not to entertain the idea of a temporary delay in the sequester deadline that would have been purchased with a balanced plan much as had been at the end of 2012,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “We would obviously welcome a change of heart by Republicans, but there’s no indication from Republicans that such a change of heart is forthcoming.”
Once the sequestration deadline came and went, President Obama settled in for a long, glacial campaign to persuade individual Republicans to support the sort of deficit reduction he’s been pursuing for two years. But even if that effort ultimately works, it for all intents and purposes is unfolding on its own, delinked from the ongoing sequestration cuts, which were supposed to be the forcing mechanism that scared Republicans straight about the need to increase taxes.
Instead, sequestration will continue for at least as long as it takes lawmakers and Obama to reach a budget agreement — if such an agreement is possible.
“[T]he timeline for that, obviously, is a little prolonged because it involves regular order and the budget process underway in the Congress, in both the House and the Senate, as well as the conversations and meetings that the President has been having with lawmakers, and that lawmakers have been having among themselves,” Carney said. “So it certainly looks as though the sequester will remain imposed for some time unless Republicans have a change of heart about the decision to impose it.”
Obama didn’t want to end up gambling on the good will of rank and file Republicans to remove sequestration.
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