Although he now blames President Obama for the draconian spending cuts set to take effect March 1, just days before it passed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) characterized the so-called sequester to Republicans as a way to hold the president accountable.
A PowerPoint presentation that Boehner sent to his conference on July 31, 2011, reported by TPM at the time and resurfaced by The Daily Beast’s John Avlon, cast the sequester and the rest of the deal in favorable terms. The seven-slide PowerPoint was titled “Two-Step Approach To Hold President Obama Accountable” and the final slide made the case for sequestration.
Within two days, the Budget Control Act — a debt limit hike, a wave of nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts, and the sequester — was overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted,” Boehner told CBS News at the time. “I’m pretty happy.”
Eighteen months later, with one week before the $1 trillion in deep, indiscriminate cuts to defense and domestic programs begin to take effect, Boehner is blaming Obama and refusing to consider any new tax revenues as part of a deal to avoid the sequester. Republican leaders insist that it should be avoided with only spending cuts.
Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel argues that the PowerPoint presentation was sent to the House GOP conference after the deal was struck and therefore “proves nothing at all.”
“The slide was for a presentation to our Conference AFTER President Obama insisted on including the sequester in the Budget Control Act (replacing the original bipartisan agreement between Sen. Reid, Sen. McConnell and Speaker Boehner, which used the debt limit itself as a backstop),” Steel told TPM in an email. “It proves nothing at all — which we would have been happy to explain to Mr. Avlon, had he contacted our office prior to posting it.”
The idea of the sequester emanated from the White House in the 11th hour after talks with Republicans broke down. The episode was a product of Boehner and his House GOP members refusing to raise the debt limit without dollar-for-dollar savings — an unprecedented demand. They refused to consider any revenue to achieve that target, and party leaders could not agree on more than $950 billion in targeted spending cuts. So the sequester became the fall-back option, designed to force Congress to find the requisite savings. But Congress failed to do so.
Obama and Democrats have pitched a plan to replace the sequester for one year with a mix of targeted spending cuts and new revenue, but House Republicans are still stonewalling new revenue. They point to legislation they passed last year to replace the sequester with cuts to poverty programs but that legislation is now inactive and may not even be able to pass given the House GOP’s diminished majority.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.