President Obama has summoned congressional leaders to the White House on Friday to discuss the sequester. But Friday is the very day on which the deep, across-the-board spending cuts take effect.
The meeting will be the first between Obama and congressional leaders on finding a deficit-reduction policy to replace the controversial automatic cuts. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected to attend on the GOP's side, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be there for the Democrats.
McConnell says Republicans will work with Obama, but only to find alternative cuts. He vows not to cave on Obama's insistence that any deal include higher tax revenues instead of just reduced spending. With both sides continuing to dig in their heels, as they did for weeks leading up to the deadline, is there really a chance that meeting face to face will do any good?
Nobody seems to be counting on a breakthrough. The only thing that is fairly certain, according to Steve Benen at MSNBC, is that no deal will be reached before the deadline, and the $85 billion in cuts for this year will start kicking in. Between now and then, Democrats in the Senate will probably propose a "compromise that replaces the sequester with a balanced deal — some cuts, some revenue. It will almost certainly be killed by a Republican filibuster, at which point, there will be nothing more to consider." Friday will probably just be a repeat of the same fruitless charade.
So long as the Republican position is that they'll only tolerate 100 percent of what they want, I'm not sure how productive the discussions will be, but I suppose we'll find out soon enough. [MSNBC]
And the word in Washington is that Obama only wants to hold this meeting for appearance's sake, according to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. If he really wanted to find a solution, the president would have sat down with GOP leaders weeks ago instead of wasting his time "traveling for more than two weeks and 5,200 miles to gripe about the sequester and the supposedly 'massive' cuts they impose on federal discretionary spending." The meeting will only be serious, Morrissey says, if Democrats approach it seriously, so don't get your hopes up.
You know what might have avoided this? An actual budget from the Senate, whose refusal to engage in normal-order budgeting created the cliffs and crises of the last three years. Even on the sequester, despite the president's campaigning, his party controls the upper chamber and yet hasn’t produced a single alternative for the House to consider. [Hot Air]
"The game of chicken both the Republicans and Democrats are playing with the sequester and the budget/deficit talks is striking," says Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism. The bizarre thing is that "neither side is signaling the faintest interest in dealmaking of any kind." Both sides appear to be assuming they'll "get lucky" and cruise past the deadline without any "serious bad photo images (airport lines? parents stuck due to the cessation of federally funded daycare? noise about tax refunds arriving later than usual?)." They may be right, as it will probably be at least a month before there is any economic blowback, which will give them time to figure out ways to ease the pain of hard hit groups. Still, they're playing a risky game.
But the two camps are acting as if they can get an outcome they want, when they are putting a new experiment in play. In other words, I’d expect what they don’t seem to be anticipating, which is the unexpected. [Naked Capitalism]