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U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pauses during remarks to the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
House Speaker John Boehner wants you to know he hates the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester that are set to take effect on March 1. At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, he told reporters: "Let me be clear, I don't like the sequester. It's taking a meat axe to our government." What's more, Boehner said, he has been against the sequester all along. "I fought to not have the sequester in the first place," he told reporters.

Of course, this is the same John Boehner who last month said the sequester was "as much leverage as we're going to get" to accomplish Republican spending goals. And what might those goals be? Yep, cutting social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And this is also the same John Boehner who said he got 98 percent of what he wanted when the sequester was signed into law.

But now that the sequester is almost reality, he understands how politically unpopular it will be, so he's trying to blame it all on the president, calling it "the president's sequester." But as you'll see below the fold, he's actually doing a pretty bad job of making his argument.

At the press conference, Boehner complained that Congress has been too willing to "kick the can down the road" when it comes to cutting spending. He expressed displeasure at the president because "the president is talking about moving the sequester out a couple of months more." But given that nobody says they like the sequester, Boehner failed to explain what would be so bad about postponing it, as the president has proposed.

I suspect Boehner knows that he's in a bad position here. This is how he described the options before Congress: "Democrats say we should replace the president's sequester with revenue increases or delay it. Republicans say we should replace it, with responsible reforms, that will put us on a path to balance the budget in ten years."

That's pretty much the best way of presenting the Republican position, but the problem is that when you see those options, you realize the best path forward is to delay the sequester. Perhaps if Democrats and Republicans could agree on how to replace it, there'd be a better scenario, but absent that agreement, delay is clearly the best option.

The fact that Boehner didn't endorse a delay leaves four possibilities: (1) he's bluffing, and will accept a delay, (2) he believes Democrats will agree to replace defense cuts with cuts to entitlements whether or not he's bluffing, (3) he's bluffing and will accept additional revenue, or (4) he's not bluffing and likes the sequester more than he admitted.

Here's my bet: Boehner is bluffing and will accept additional revenue. A reporter asked him whether he thought the House would approve legislation that would raise another $300-$400 billion in revenue as part of a hypothetical deal to replace the sequester, bringing the total amount of revenue raised in 2013 to $1 trillion if you include the tax cliff deal. Boehner's answer: "Who knows what would happen today?"

That's hardly a ringing endorsement of new revenue, but it's also far from a Shermanesque statement ruling it out. Moreover, when another reporter asked Boehner about negotiating with the Senate, he actually suggested that if the Senate passes legislation, there could be a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two pieces of legislation.

It's possible Boehner was just posturing to try to sound like he's willing to negotiate. But given the fact that he caved on the debt limit and caved on tax rates, I suspect he's ready to deal. And that means President Obama's Grand Bargain is probably still a realistic possibility. Whether or not that's a good thing is an entirely different question, however.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Considering Cantor's rebranding died after a day (9+ / 0-)

    This firmly vague doubletalk is meaningless without a piece of legislation....

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:38:18 PM PST

  •  Meat Axe (9+ / 0-)

    Does a meat axe chop meat or is it made out of meat?

  •  The Boehner Barf-&-Scarf. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beetwasher, rlharry

    This is what it looks like when a wimpy GOPosaurian has to eat his own words....

    Proponents of gun violence own guns. Opponents of gun violence do not own guns. What part of this do you not understand?

    by Liberal Panzer on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:39:55 PM PST

  •  Boner's Meat About to be Axed, Again (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlharry, a2nite

    This post is dedicated to myself, without whom, I'd be somebody else. Though I'd still be an asshole. My Music: []

    by Beetwasher on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:41:51 PM PST

  •  Boehner doing a bad job? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beetwasher, rlharry


    "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

    by bryduck on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:45:38 PM PST

  •  I approve of that photo. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beetwasher, Sarea, rlharry

    It's not unkind.

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:47:35 PM PST

  •  Ha. What a great photo for this piece. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlharry, Pluto, a2nite

    HuffPost ain't got nothin on you.  I always think it would be fun to be the person who selects the images for HuffPost headlines because they always catch people making some expression that is perfect for the piece, even if the image was taken YEARS before the story it accompanies.

    Nice work :) thanks for the laugh

    Nothing is as evilly imaginative as the mind of a teenage gamer. -- Sychotic1

    by Sarea on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:56:37 PM PST

  •  Don't see how he could agree to new revenue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlharry, Pluto, tikkun

    His base will crucify him.

  •  He fought against the sequester? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rlharry, Pluto, Rube Goldberg

    6 months ago he was bragging it was part of his getting 98% of what The Teapublicans wanted.

    I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

    by jhecht on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:58:25 PM PST

  •  Make no mistake about it, (5+ / 0-)

    the right wing is hard on the path of presenting the sequester as Obama's idea and responsibility. It's all over the internet, and is absolutely their new talking point.

    They have dismissed the role of the sequester in getting the debt ceiling raised, and with their usual convenient amnesia won't have anything to do with the idea that their role in the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 was as the aggressors, those that made the sequester necessary.  

    Nor will they have anything to do with how many of them voted for it.  They are once again engaged in the big lie, and I hope to God that Obama is planning a VERY aggressive push back. The clock is ticking and he has nothing to lose by using his bully pulpit very aggressively.  

    Because the more he speaks to the fact that the sequestration does not have to happen if the GOP agrees it shouldn't, the more he pushes them in the corner. Right now they're banking on the fact that the media seems to be in some sort of daze regarding the sequestration---perhaps numb to it is the correct phrase. IOW, nobody seems all that interested.

    As I see it, the most important thing right now is making sure the American public lays the blame at the feet of the GOP.  If he's successful at that in these next few weeks, it's a win win.

    Even if the sequestration goes into effect because the GOP is dumb enough to let it, Democrats win. Remember, some of the worst cuts are going to happen in red states due to the fact that's where much of the defense industry resides.

    "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

    by StellaRay on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:03:04 PM PST

    •  Nicely done. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is no blame if they just drop the sequester. It's a phony thing, anyway.

      If it goes through, who cares about blame anymore? The economy will tailspin and throw the global economy into recession. Which will loop back and kick our asses to the curb.

      So, that's out.

      Next up -- the Debt Limit is baaaack.

      Denial is a drug.

      by Pluto on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:18:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and that's the problem. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto, tikkun, TAH from SLC

        I believe the GOP has driven this country into a great big "meh" when it comes to these discussions, because thanks to GOP priorities, they never end and always seem to result only in the can getting kicked down the road.  

        Sadly, I don't believe your average American even knows the sequestration is due to kick in, or what that might mean.  That might be different if the media made this the horse race they love on guns and immigration, but it seems the media's response is pretty much "meh" too.

        I find it hard to believe that we're less than 30 days away from the most draconian cuts this country has ever seen all at once, and yet the coverage of this is almost non-existent, even on MSNBC, where immigration and gun control are more sexy---which is not to diminish the importance of both, but only to say  hey, are you kidding me? You're not talking about, educating and illuminating just what the sequestration will mean?!?!?!

        All the more reason Obama MUST step it up here.

        "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

        by StellaRay on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:27:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We could have such a great conversation. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          RE:  "kicking the can down the road" -- yes, please.

          It's the only stimulus we have left. Pathetic but true.

          Five years ago, I never thought I would say those words.

          Denial is a drug.

          by Pluto on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:45:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  :) Yep. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'd just love to have a cup of coffee with you. A nice cozy coffee shop, the windows steamed by the frost outside and the heat inside, and a table for two. I feel that way about many people I "meet" here.  

            Alas, we'll have to do with what we have.  I appreciate this back and forth, Pluto, and look forward to more of it.  

            And yes, in a perverted way, the only thing that keeps us going (stimulus) is waiting for that which has stopped us to thaw.

            "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

            by StellaRay on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:53:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  All over the Internet where? (0+ / 0-)

      Can you give some example sites? Curious to see how it's being portrayed. The coverage I've seen so far has been doggedly neutral

      •  Two mixed sites I visit... (0+ / 0-)

        The Daily Beast, and the Huffington Post.  Comments from conservatives on both those sites today, were "doggedly" all about how the sequestration was Obama's idea. There were tons of them on both sites.

        I'm not talking about actual news coverage, I'm talking about the talking points the right wings seems to adopt over night when necessary and pass on to their sheep.  If you haven't heard it yet, believe me, you'll be hearing about it soon.

        As usual, it's all Obama's fault.

        "A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues." Theodore Roosevelt.

        by StellaRay on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 09:58:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Obstructionism (0+ / 0-)

    That's all they got.  But, thankfully, I believe the majority of Americans are sick and tired of the obstructionism from the Teapublicans.  And despite Fox propaganda, most sane Americans are finally placing the blame squarely on the GOPosaurs.

    "We have facts on our side. They have propaganda on their side."

    by rlharry on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 05:05:21 PM PST

  •  This time is different. (0+ / 0-)

    During the fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama had leverage because everyone's taxes were about to go up. During the debt ceiling fight, the GOP did not want blame for a catastrophic default. This time, however, Republicans have what they want if nothing is done (across-the-board spending cuts, albeit including defense). Therefore, Obama's previous approaches do not work.

    •  I think you're underestimating the power of def. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      contractors. Lockheed Martin for example recently had a conference with investors where the idea of the sequester going into effect wasn't even seriously entertained. And these folks have every politician in their pockets as we all know, plus major job centers in most districts.

      The public messaging is just as bad. The Republican position is this: give corporations their private jet loopholes and corporate welfare, let us make up the difference by cutting your retirement benefits, or else we will blow up the military. I really don't think they want to go down that road.

  •  I don't think they are bluffing but I don't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    think they can sustain a long sequester period.  Tea partiers will look to the impact on the economy as giving them some leverage on Obama.  However, the GOP caucus is far from unified or equally committed on the issue.  Any lengthy period of sequester gives Obama to sell his rather pragmatic proposals which will be popular.  This will make the GOP seem intransigent and extreme.  The beltway may think we have a spending problem but the rest of the country doesn't buy it, and certainly doesn't buy the GOP's approach to solving it.

    This GOP congress is not the most intelligent or tactful group of people.  That makes them less predictable.  As a result they are more likely to do stupid things that hurt the US economy before coming to terms with the limits of their power.

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:21:00 PM PST

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