House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that his decision to allow billions in across-the-board budget cuts to take effect is forcing President Obama to recalibrate his approach to taxes and government spending, but he acknowledged that it was a strategy born out of limited options.So, according to Boehner, the sequester was a big win for Republicans because they used the leverage given to them by the sequester to achieve their policy goals. The only problem with that argument is that Republicans haven't actually achieved anything worth bragging about—unless you count taking ownership of an unpopular austerity program as an achievement.
“We forged a new tactical plan that focused on using our limited leverage to maximum effect in support of the reforms needed to support economic growth and job creation for all Americans,” Boehner (Ohio) wrote Thursday in an Easter week message to fellow House Republicans.
“Republicans may be the minority party in Washington — but because we forged a plan together and have stuck to it, our actions as a team over the past couple of months have made a difference for all Americans,” Boehner wrote.
The only thing Republicans can plausibly point to as a policy success (from their point of view) is that other than the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, there haven't been any tax increases. But even that is a stretch, because Republicans had (and continue to have) the power to block any new revenue simply by saying "no," which they are pretty good at.
Follow below the fold for more on why it doesn't make sense for Boehner to be taking a victory lap.
As Greg Sargent points out, Boehner's real goal with the sequester was to force President Obama to propose replacing the sequester with nothing but cuts to social insurance programs. That hasn't come close to happening—and never will.
The biggest concession Boehner has gotten is President Obama's offer to include the chained CPI Social Security benefit cut in a "Grand Bargain" to replace the sequester, but Obama's offer was contingent on Republicans agreeing to revenue increases as well as defense spending cuts—and as everybody knows, Republicans have repeatedly ruled out such a deal.
It's clear that Boehner is trying to make lemonade out of lemons.
The GOP effort to blame the sequester on President Obama (remember #Obamaquester?) failed miserably, so Boehner is trying to spin the sequester as a positive. But when you see Michele Bachmann telling everybody who will listen that she's against the sequester because it hurts "the most vulnerable among us," it's clear Boehner is playing a losing hand.
To be fair to Boehner, he's not the only incoherent Republican, however. At the same time that members of his conference are whining about the impacts of the sequester back home, they're voting not just to the sequester permanent, but to add another 10 percent spending cut on top of it.