The Daily Beast's John Avlon digs up this slide from a July 31, 2011 PowerPoint presentation distributed by the office of House Speaker John Boehner to his fellow Republicans:
Boehner says President Obama insisted on sequestration instead of risking the possibility of another debt limit crisis during an election year. According to him, that means Obama bears sole responsibility for the sequester, even though Congress voted for it.
During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit to allow for an increase in the federal debt limit, President Obama and I very nearly came to a historic agreement. Unfortunately our deal fell apart at the last minute when the president demanded an extra $400 billion in new tax revenue—50% more than we had shaken hands on just days before.But even if the sequester was Obama's approach to solving the debt limit crisis, that hardly exonerates Boehner—and not just because he supported the sequester. Remember, the reason the debt limit became a crisis was that House Republicans demanded deficit reduction in exchange for raising the debt limit but at the same time refused to negotiate over revenue.
It was a disappointing decision by the president, but with just days until a breach of the debt limit, a solution was still required—and fast. I immediately got together with Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to forge a bipartisan congressional plan. It would be called the Budget Control Act.
The plan called for immediate caps on discretionary spending (to save $917 billion) and the creation of a special House-Senate "super committee" to find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings. The deal also included a simple but powerful mechanism to ensure that the committee met its deficit-reduction target: If it didn't, the debt limit would not be increased again in a few months.
But President Obama was determined not to face another debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. Having just blown up one deal, the president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester.
With the debt limit set to be hit in a matter of hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president's demand for the sequester, and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis.
President Obama made the mistake of chasing the unobtainable Grand Bargain instead of making Republicans pay for their hostage crisis, but the bulk of the blame for creating the debt limit crisis in the first place falls on GOP shoulders. If Republicans didn't want the sequester, they shouldn't have made the only alternative be yet another fight over the debt limit or even more draconian cuts.
Obviously, there's plenty of blame to go around. And it's truly pathetic that Washington, D.C. is more focused on playing the blame game than simply getting rid of a policy that nobody thinks is good. But at least Democrats and the president have offered a short-term way out of the mess—a compromise that would raise revenue and cut spending to offset the sequester through the end of the year. Republicans are simply pointing fingers.
At this point, everybody seems believe to the sequester will begin to kick in on March 1 because Republicans won't agree to compromise on revenue. Unless that changes, that means the the next opportunity to do anything about the sequester will be in November 2014 when the entire House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection. Maybe voters will have forgotten all about the sequester by then, but if they haven't—and if they wan't to get rid of it—voting for Democrats will be the only rational option.