President Obama may have tried to pull one over on the viewers at home during his State of the Union address, but his attempts to distance himself from the sequester while calling for its repeal were met with eye rolls in Washington.
The sequester, a $1.2 trillion package of mandatory across-the-board cuts to military and discretionary spending, was passed with bi-partisan support and signed into law by Obama in an effort to motivate Congress to come to some sort of compromise. Unsurprisingly, they failed to agree on anything, and the mandatory cuts were triggered.
The cuts were initially set to occur on January 1. As part of the fiscal cliff deal, Congress kicked the can a few months down the road, setting the next deadline to March 1.
At first, almost everyone expected the sequester to be addressed in some sort of compromise package that distributed the cuts in a more targeted way and supplemented other reductions with revenue increases.
Unfortunately, it seems that the same problem that created this monster is set to unleash it.
Republicans have made it clear that they are unwilling to include any revenue increases in a package intended to avoid the sequester and some have outright stated their support for letting the sequester happen. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that “it’s pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect,” citing the lack of “House plans to act on this matter before the end of the month.”
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) actively called for the sequester to advance as planned in his Tea Party response to the State of the Union last night, accusing the president of engaging in “woe is me” politics and mischaracterizing the sequester as cuts in spending when in fact it’s simply a cut in the rate of growth of spending.
On the other side, Democrats have refused to propose any solutions free of revenue increases, a non-starter with a GOP still grumpy about the fiscal cliff tax increases, demonstrating that both sides are willing to let the cuts go into effect rather than cede any political ground.
The sequester is expected to cut over a million jobs in its first year and take an axe to everything from weapons systems to education programs and Medicare payments to hospitals.
On Tuesday, the president called for both sides to come together to find a solution to this “really bad idea.” Unfortunately for the president, what was once an unthinkable political punishment has become an all-but-inevitable reality in this political environment and the time to change that is running out fast.
See the biggest take-aways from Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech here.