House Republicans are working hard to build the narrative that the sequester cuts continue to be a “victory” for them, giving them momentum while deflating the President’s numbers after his victories on the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling. But the GOP narrative is undermined by a niggling problem: Republicans themselves openly concede that in an overall sense, the sequester cuts are a bad thing, while some of them are even loudly lamenting the cuts that are hitting their own districts.
John Boehner is circulating a new memo filled with sequester triumphalism, arguing that Republicans hatched a “tactical plan” to use the sequester as “leverage,” and that it worked:
We made the decision to center the spending debate on sequestration rather than on the debt ceiling or legislation to keep the government running, denying the president the ability to hide behind straw men in his reluctance to control spending….The plan we forged together in Williamsburg has been effective in keeping the pressure on the Democratic majority in Washington to control spending and remove barriers to economic growth. [...]
Pressure is mounting on the Democratic majority in Washington to balance the federal budget and identify meaningful entitlement reforms they’re willing to enact to address the government’s soaring debt.
It’s interesting that winning here is being defined as forcing Dems to identify entitlement cuts they’re willing to make — getting Dems to put their fingerprints on cuts so Republicans don’t have to own them — which is a dynamic we’ve seen before. But that aside, the memo also goes on to admit that the sequester cuts are substantively a bad thing:
The spending cuts implemented under sequestration still need to be replaced with better spending cuts that help move us to our goal of a balanced budget within the next decade.
And not only that, but multiple Republicans are complaining about the cuts hitting their own districts, variously calling them “unwise,” claiming they raise concerns about “safety,” that they betray a “troubling lack of priorities,” and risk having “devastating impacts on entire communities.” Meanwhile, news accounts from around the country are demonstrating that the sequester is beginning to do real damage.
It’s hard to see how it’s coherent for Republicans to claim the sequester as a victory even as they decry its impact and acknowledge it needs to be replaced. Now, judging from Boehner’s memo, he believes that by holding fast to the sequester, Republicans have given themselves leverage that will ultimately result in the sequester cuts being replaced by only cuts elsewhere. Total victory is within reach! But that hasn’t happened. And it’s hard to see a scenario in which it does happen. It’s certainly possible that we may be stuck with extended sequestration and that it will take a political toll on Obama over the long term, but where, exactly, is the victory for Republicans here?