It's not unexpected but this is nevertheless a disappointing day as this wasn't necessary. As the President says, nobody is winning today:
"President Obama will keep pushing for a comprehensive deal to roll back sequestration and reduce the deficit, he said Friday as he prepared to sign an order initiating the automatic spending cuts."
"We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their country and their party on this," he said in the White House briefing room after spending less than an hour meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office.
"This is not a win for anybody, this is a loss for the American people," he said. "I don't anticipate a huge financial crisis but people are going to be hurt."
For the most part, I'm optimistic that we will ultimately defeat the sequester. It would seem that by the deadline on funding the government-March 27-we should expect something to get done. At the end of the day, I don't think Republicans can afford the sequester either as military cuts hurt many red GOP states in particular.
Talking Points Memo has an interesting premise about how the battle may unfold for March:
"After meeting with congressional leaders from both parties about sequestration spending cuts that take effect Friday, President Obama mapped out future negotiations with Republicans, which he hopes will yield an alternative deficit reduction package that includes higher taxes and cuts to Medicare.
"In a key revelation, though, he identified a way for Republicans to prevent the sequestration fight from precipitating a government shutdown."
"Crucially, Obama said he’s prepared to sign legislation at the end of March to fund the government if Republicans adhere to the spending levels they agreed to during the debt limit fight in 2011."
“It’s the right thing to do to make sure we don’t have a government shutdown,” Obama said. “If the bill that arrives on my desk is reflective of the commitments that we previously made, then obviously I would sign it.”
"His acknowledgment is important for reasons explored in this article. If House Republicans can’t pass a government funding bill that sets overall spending at levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act — funding that would automatically be reduced because of sequestration — then the government will shutdown and the pressure Republicans feel to cut a deal that both averts sequestration and keeps the government running will intensify."
“We agreed to a certain amount of money that was going to be spent each year, and certain funding levels for our military, our education system, and so forth,” Obama said. “If we stick to that deal, I will be supportive. … The sequester are additional cuts on top of that, and by law, until Congress takes the sequester away we have to abide by those additional cuts, but there’s no reason why we should have another crisis by shutting the government down in addition to these arbitrary spending cuts.”
"Thus, if Republicans try to rejigger the sequestration cuts such that they make the lower overall spending levels permanent, but rescind its indiscriminate cutting mechanism and thus remove the pressure on Congress to pass a balanced alternative, they’ll set off a government shutdown fight."
"But if Republicans can pass a government funding bill that adheres to spending levels agreed to and set in 2011, then the government will stay open and the fight over sequestration will continue indefinitely."
"However the fight over ongoing funding of the government shakes out, Obama said he hopes public pressure convinces Republicans to relent on revenues so that he and Congress can replace sequestration with an alternative deficit reduction plan."
Greg Sargent also argues correctly that the GOP will get the blame for the sequester.
"The message of the day from House Republicans is that the onset of the sequester is a big win for them. As the New York Timesdetails in a big story, John Boehner is leaving town continuing to refuse to agree to any new revenues, and many Republicans are cheering. Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, claims that the onset of cuts will be a “big victory” for “conservative principles.” Boehner aides appear to agree:
Republican aides say privately that Mr. Boehner sees no need to negotiate; Republicans are in a good place, they argue, because they want spending cuts and those cuts are happening.
"The curious thing about this is that just this week, the National Republican Congressional Committee — which is tasked with winning House races for Republicans — warned darklythat the sequester cuts risk devastating the economy. From the NRSC’s release:
As we rapidly approach Obama’s sequester, the president and his appointees are choosing to cut devastating segments of our economy, instead of the billions in documented waste. [...] It’s time for Obama to stop playing politics with his devastating sequester and finally put forth a responsible plan to avoid harming our economy.
"See the problem here? House Republicans are cheering the sequester as a good thing — or at least, as a better thing than compromising to avert it — even though the committee in charge of expanding their majority is on record acknowledging that they will damage the economy. It’s another indication of just how muddled the GOP’s messaging on the sequester has become."
"This gets at a broader point. Some conservatives who favor the sequester have argued that if it doesn’t result in any significant damage, it will undercut the Democratic case that spending cuts are bad for the economy. It’s true that this poses a danger for Dems. But it gives rise to a question: What if Republicans dig in and the sequestration grinds on for months — and it does result in job losses and more economic damage? Will Republicans acknowledge that cutting government spending does hurt the economy?"
The one worry is that the pain may not be felt over night. In 1995 the GOP got creamed on the government shutdown but that was obviously bigger. So you wonder if there will necessarily need to be lots of pain first before something is done.
Of course, a true government shutdown does wait on the horizon in late March. Overall, I do expect the Democrats and Obama to win this but the question is how long it takes. I would say I see an earlier resolution as a distinct possibility.