Is There Room for a Sequestration Deal?

Sequestration makes a lot of big cuts to interest groups that normally have sway within GOP circles, but the party has stayed quite firm on the principle that cuts to military spending and border security are a small price to pay for an uncompromising posture. As Nick Confessore reports, that’s created a bit of a market opportunity for the down-on-its-luck American Conservative Union to try to create an ideological campaign based on rallying conservatives to the anti-sequestration cause.

This is probably going nowhere, but it is worth pondering. Senior administration officials continue to insist that a “balanced” deficit reduction package that includes a meaningful element of higher taxes on the wealthy is the only acceptable sequestration substitute.

But speaking to them, it’s not exactly clear why that’s their position. In principle there are lots of other kinds of sequestration rollbacks you could make. You could implement some of the entitlement program cuts suggested in the Obama budget, for example, in exchange for lifting some of the president’s least-favorite sequestration elements. Or you could rescind some of the sequestration cuts that Republicans hate most in exchange for rescinding some of the ones the White House deems the most harmful. The Obama team has, probably wisely, not been interested in negotiating with me on this point. But it seems to me that if Republicans wanted to raise some alternative bargains, the White House might need to rethink this.

After all, consider the case of getting liberals to swallow cuts in Social Security benefits. Is the argument “that’s the price we had to pay to raise taxes on rich people” really so much more persuasive than “that’s the price we had to pay to get a $50 billion infrastructure program to jump-start the economy” or “that’s the price we had to pay to start building a universal preschool program”?