For a few weeks now, in between rounds of the dopey “sequester blame game,” Republicans have quietly discussed a face-saving fix to the whole. Yes, the sequestration goes into effect today. Nothing they can do there. But later this month, they have to vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of the year. They could write that in a way that hits the new, lower spending limits, but funds the programs they like. There are still limitations, enforced by the Budget Control Act, but it’s another way to give the president the authority to move cuts around.
Today, in a clipped statement and a wide-ranging press conference, John Boehner and Barack Obama sort of ambled closer to this resolution. Boehner said that the House would pass a new CR at the end of next week. Obama, prodded by reporter Zachary Goldfarb, did not rule out signing the law—even if it contained the cuts enforced by sequestration. “If the CR arrives on my desk and is reflective of the commitments that we previously made,” said the president, “then obviously I would sign it.”
This would basically get Congress off the ledge it built for itself. Neither party has proposed a new long-term, 10-year fix to all of sequestration’s cutbacks. Such a fix, as Obama said again today, would probably have to include entitlement cuts and tax hikes. “There are members of my party who violently disagree that we should do anything on Medicare,” said the president. That’s true. That’s why all of this year’s sequestration fixes have only applied to this year’s cuts, and none of them have touched entitlements. Obama’s tentatively agreeing to a plan that would hand Republicans the dollar amount of cuts that they want, while punting on the entitlement cuts that Democrats don’t want.