The Sequester Fight Was the Pregame. Here Comes the Main Event

As budget officials wrestle with the sequester, the next cliff is already looming, just weeks away.

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

By 11:59 p.m. on Friday, President Obama is required to initiate the budget process known as sequestration. Until now, the fate of these automatic spending cuts – which independent forecasters say will ultimately throw a wrench in the machinery of government, cost hundreds of thousands of job and slow economic growth – has been trapped in a pointless installment of political theater. The White House released reams of scary economic reports. The House deferred to the Senate, which finally on Thursday staged dueling stunt votes whose failure was a foregone conclusion. At which point Congress, having barely tried to avert a crisis of its own making, skipped town for the weekend.

On the day Obama is forced by law to trigger $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, a bipartisan delegation will finally trek down Pennsylvania Avenue to negotiate in person. But both sides are merely expected to restate long-held positions, giving the summit the whiff of a photo op. In fact, now that sequestration has arrived, the budget gridlock gripping Washington may be about to get worse.

(MORE: All You Need to Know About Sequestration But Were Afraid to Ask)

That’s because the two parties are already looking ahead to the next skirmish: a fight over how to fund the federal government beyond the end of the month. For the past few years, with the formal budget process broken, Congress has kept the government running with a series of stopgap funding bills, known as continuing resolutions. By March 27, lawmakers have to pass a new one or the lights go off. Unlike the effects of the sequester, whose hazards are real but not immediate, a shutdown’s seismic impact would reverberate across the economy right away.

And here’s where the capital’s budget battles fold into one another, like evil Russian nesting dolls. One of the reasons many Tea Party Republicans considered the implementation of the sequester a “home run,” as Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo put it, is it locks in federal outlays at a lower level, trimming the budget back to its George W. Bush-era totals. That’s a modest but hard-won victory for a party that has long sought to rein in government spending. Now that sequestration is law, the GOP gains the same kind of political advantage that Democrats possessed during the fiscal cliff fight, when taxes were set to go up with no further action.

(VIDEO: Republicans Strike Back In Online Sequester Ads)

As soon as next week, House GOP appropriators will introduce a continuing resolution which would include special protections for defense programs but not raise total spending. Republicans say they are open to letting Obama devise a more surgical method of removing $85 billion from the economy over the next seven months. Democrats reject that idea — indeed, they voted down one such GOP proposal in the Senate on Thursday — and argue there is no way to slash that deep without gashing the fragile recovery.“There is no way to cut spending this dramatically over a seven-month period without drastically affecting national security and economic priorities,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

The impending collision of these two convictions is why some Capitol Hill aides from both parties have been privately predicting a government shutdown for weeks or months. In the event of a shutdown, Republicans — who have far less public support than the President — run the risk of being punished by voters for overreaching. But they’re betting that voters will hardly notice the impacts of sequestration by the time the next budget deadline rolls around, and decide the new normal is something they can live with.

(MORE: Congress Looks Past the Sequester Deadline and Braces for Long Fight)

In the meantime, the sequester will begin to cascade across the country; at some point on Friday, Obama will alter the U.S. financial forecast with the stroke of a pen. No, the sequester isn’t a cliff, and perhaps not even a particularly steep slope, but it will ultimately reshape the contours of the American economy unless action is taken to change it. A senior administration official compares the March 1 deadline to a layoff notice: your routine and finances may not change much in the interim, but unless you come up with a way to replace the lost money, life is about to become very different. “This is an unprecedented set of circumstances,” the official says. “It’s challenging to plan for and implement effectively, because it’s a public policy that was never meant to be implemented.” And as budget officials wrestle with the sequester, the next cliff is already looming, just weeks away.

MORE: A Sequester No One Wants

279 comments
drudown
drudown

Taken to its illogical conclusion, when the GOP asserts that spending is the answer ("When is the President going to address the spending side of this?" - Boehner) it is likewise an implicit admission that raising revenue is, in fact, a "side of this". What, the US government should NOT EVER raise taxes? I'm slated to be in the highest tax bracket for 2013 and think it is absolutely asinine to believe that RAISING REVENUE is not a condition precedent to self-sufficent economic growth. Get real, GOP. 

I would like Boehner and the GOP to make an argument as to WHY the US government should not RAISE revenue. 

paulejb
paulejb

Barack Hussein Obama's predictions of doom match those of the Mayan ancients.

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

Congress fiddles while US burns.

DebbieHanrahan
DebbieHanrahan

Next month the government will shut down.  Which might be better than a collasp or take over or revolution.  Nonetheless the die is cast.  TEA Party got what they want...no taxes ever.  What is to remain is how the people feel about it.  How much do they really value certain services.  Meat will still be inspected but slowed down that the mean will rot first.  IRS will still collect taxes and send returns...just the check will not be in the mail till the end of the year and if you are audited you will be in limbo forever, and our soldiers will still fight in foreign lands until they no longer believe in the America we are asking them to fight for.   It's about total free enterprise in a global economy with supply side economics.  That works when there is business for the majority to not revolt, it trickles down when there is money in the pot to trickle down.  No job = no money.  America is still a global power but she is crumbling from the inside out. 

paulejb
paulejb

Note for low information liberals:

Despite the hysterical Mayan like predictions emanating from the the White House, the bloated and rapacious federal government will be spending more in 2013 than in 2012 even with the sequester.

krw1943
krw1943

Reality check! The real menace is not Sequestration it is Obamacare. Do some homework.

SamuelYap
SamuelYap

You get the government that you deserve. You elected a Republican majority in Congress, so live with it and their obstinate sequestration, with its across- the board irrational cuts. You elected Obama, so live with his philosophy that the way to get the US engine humming is to prime it with more funds, and not derail the fragile economy with cuts in the wrong places. In the Philippines, voters allow themselves to be bought, and so we have an economy which sees around $42B lost yearly to corruption. That is democracy.  You get what you voted for.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Class warfare. It doesnt have to be either this or that all the time


Yet there can only be cuts.
Maybe you din't mean THAT type of class warfare. BTW - adding revenues AND cutting is a balanced way of getting spending under control. Only cutting is not. That's class warfare. 

coloradobob1976
coloradobob1976

For god's sake it's only a 2.4% cut or so, if the "leaders" can't figure out how to make it happen (of EITHER side...) perhaps America will wake up and start looking at the details of how the DC nuthouse works.

fitty_three
fitty_three

You're either rich or stupid, curt3rd.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@53_3 Republicans say the sequester is good.  They also say that it's Pres. Obama's sequester.  So that means Republicans approve of Pres. Obama.  Of course they'll deny this because they are twisted fools.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@DebbieHanrahan  

 Rule of thumb to those GOPers who will certainly complain about the lack of services:

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@paulejb  

Note to paulejb.

You're still demonstrating how you can pee around corners.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@krw1943 

Call me and let me know how you feel when a loved one is close to death.

Then, after that, I'll invite you to tell them that you're fighting for his or her freedom to die without medical care.

krw1943
krw1943

@SamuelYap Dear Mr Yap, I fear we allow votes to be bought here too, PLUS legislation, bridges to nowhere and the absurdity of our State Department funding mosques in other countries - just to mention a couple absurdities. We lose more each year to corruption (Fraud, Waste and Abuse) than probabaly any country on a proportional basis to their GDP. Now we have begun to launch a healthcare program that will make us an economic basket case if allowed to continue. All the while we bail out gigantic banks with criminal boards of directors, the very same banks that charge a single mother of three 30% PLUS on her credit card! You are absolutely right - we get what we vote for. And it ain't pretty. We are at near bottom in a very ugly cycle in our history.

krw1943
krw1943

@La_Randy - Did you have an extra portion of Fruit Loops for breakfast?

reallife
reallife

@MrObvious  you already got your tax increase - now it's time to cut spending - that was the agreement but as everyone already knew your side could not be trusted - you can whine and scream about it all you want - your credibility is gone -

coloradobob1976
coloradobob1976

@MrObvious Perhaps people could actually start to discuss issues without judgment and/or lack of understanding. Listen to the other view. You really can get a long way with civil conduct. Consideration, in all things, would go a long way in this country right now. I think most people would agree that this unproductive finger pointing needs to end.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 History will see him as a failed president with failed policies

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 Wish I was rich and the only stupid thing Ive done today was think you would actually say something that is not recycled be the liberal media

drudown
drudown

@DD6002 @drudown 

Why don't you proffer something substantive, Colonel Sanders? Or are you too chicken to match wits? I fancy.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@krw1943

This from a guy whose peers decided to make corruption in government entirely legal.

Citizens United, dumbbell.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@reallife

YOu have none, lowlife.

And who says that revenues can't be part of the equation?

La_Randy
La_Randy

@reallife @MrObvious 1.2 trillon in cuts as opposed to 600 billion in tax increases. This does not include the sequester. Only those experienced in reallife would say that this is balance.

coloradobob1976
coloradobob1976

@53_3 @coloradobob1976 The DC masters take too much money and spend it WAAAY to loosely (ask anyone with a ethics who works in Gov't.) and its about time they figure out how to do the job they're there to do instead of pointing fingers and trying to get re-elected.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

I seem to have the upper hand on the facts.

You try to spin them.  When the details like the congressional record are looked at, you're a plain liar.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@paulejb

But, regardless, you definitely suck Rush.  Look below!

Oh, and you're a slot for the race card, a slot for Sandy aid money, and have the ambitions of scabies.

Plus, you are a LIAR

Did I mention your filth, too?

That is all.

fitty_three
fitty_three

It did till the new, enraged, more rabid GOP showed up.

Wondered what the states would look like if the GOP could gerrymander those...

fitty_three
fitty_three

Those hideous poor people are the problem, I'm sure.

coloradobob1976
coloradobob1976

@MrObvious @coloradobob1976 @53_3 Well, I don't know about you but the revenue they get from ME is up! Perhaps some common sense: raise the darn income cap for social security deductions, drop the flipping mortgage deduction for second homes, for spending do an actual income study of food-stamp and welfare recipients and maybe a needs-based dispersal system for all the handouts we seem so happy to fork out for votes... 

fitty_three
fitty_three

I"m not a liberal, but you can't tell because you are too dense for that.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

The house did not offer a balanced approach.  You omit portions of the "truth" to fit your spin.  Witness what happened before December 31, 2012.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 @curt3rd Again, what am I lying about?  And why dont you tell me what you think a lilberal is and dont cut and paste.  Use your own words this time

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

Because you don't know what a liberal is.  And you attribute a lot of insulting behavior to them.

I think you're a conservative, but one that feels he has to lie to keep his boat afloat.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 Why is it that liberals never want to be called liberals.  I dont mind being callled a conservative

fitty_three
fitty_three

And btw, how many times have you called "librul" the same thing.

Eat your poo, curt3rd.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

Time will tell, but I don't mind calling a liar an idiot.

You're both.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 @curt3rd That is an opion and I dont know why you have to continue to call me names. But time will tell if Im right or not

fitty_three
fitty_three

Hey, why don't you send your paycheck to that guy with the yacht? I'm sure he'll thank you poisonally.

Me?

I'm going to keep mine.  But I get it, you're generous to a fault.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

You can't disguise the fact that you don't want any revenues.

And this during a 40 year low for the rich + perks.

Buh, bye, idjit.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 @curt3rd You are either not listening to what Im saying, not comprehending, or just to busy calling me names.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

He did cuts too.  Who says he cant do a balance approach this time too?  And why are you defending tax loopholes for the rich at the expense of the middle class.

There is no rule outside the GOP that says that revenues can't be a part of the equation, liar.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 @curt3rd He already got his tax raise.  Where is the other half to the balance approach?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

That only happened after Obama backed the house into a corner.  They took a hit in the teeth politically for it, too.

And Obama said, repeatedly, that he will only accept a balanced approach.

curt3rd
curt3rd

@53_3 @curt3rd You are continuing to lie.  The house raised taxes on income over 400,000.00  and the payroll tax went up and Obama said he would make cuts but he didnt.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@curt3rd

What truth?  FOX?

You just don't want revenues to be part of it and will spin it any way you can to show that.

Which, it is an absolute lie to think the GOP would compromise on that, they didn't and they won't.

Go down with the ship, bozo.