We are through the sequestration looking glass here, people

March 1, 2013

Sequestration becomes a reality at midnight tonight.


This is Alice. In Wonderland.

That, in and of itself, is somewhat remarkable to consider -- given that Washington created the sequester as a this-is-so-bad-even-we-will-have-to-act device.

The fact that President Obama, Speaker John Boehner and everyone else involved in sequestration never thought this day would come makes the post-sequester world absolutely fascinating. Starting at midnight, we are in uncharted territory; to quote Milhouse van Houten: "We're through the looking glass here, people."

The two parties are currently painting vastly different pictures of what March 2 will look like. The Obama administration has spent the last 10 days warning of potential crises for everything from air travel to first responders. Republicans have, by and large, pushed back on the idea that the cuts will have such a drastic, immediate impact and insisted the President is trying to scare people.  (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal actually used those exact words.)

Starting Monday -- assuming no deal to avert or delay the sequester is made -- we'll begin to get a sense for who was right.  We'll also begin to get an idea for where (and if) the blame game is moving.

In the pre-sequester period (ah, those heady days), the public tended to say they would blame Congressional Republicans more than Obama for the more than trillion dollars in cuts that would go into effect (over the next decade) if the sequestration happens.  Those numbers have made the White House supremely confident about their ability to win the political argument once sequestration takes effect.

Republicans have long believed, privately, that once the sequester actually happens and people begin to pay more attention (we would say "if" people begin to pay more attention) then President Obama, the head honcho of then government, would come in for more blame.

We've posited that Republicans will have a very hard time winning the sequester showdown due to a) the lack of interest for the issue among the general public and b) the disparity in popularity between Obama and Congressional GOPers.  There's also a strain of thinking within the GOP that the party needs to take a strategic loss on the sequester in order to philosophically position itself to win broader battles down the line.

But, here's the reality: We've not been in this place before.  No one who signed off on sequestration in 2011 thought it would ever come to pass and, as a result, there was little long-range thinking about what might happen if it did. Now that the impossible in on the verge of happening, no one really knows what comes next.

Obama urges Supreme Court to reverse ban on same-sex marriage: The Obama administration made its first entry into the legal fight over California's Proposition 8 initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman, filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the high court to overturn the initiative.

Obama became the first president to use the word "gay" as a reference to sexual orientation in an inaugural address earlier this year, and has been under pressure from gay rights groups to enter the Proposition 8 battle. The president's engagement in matters involving gay rights will be under extra scrutiny in his second term, following his historic inaugural address.

Romney says campaign was like "roller coaster": In his first sit-down interview since losing the presidential election last fall, Mitt Romney said the campaign was like "a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs." But, noted the former GOP nominee in the "Fox News Sunday" interview, "the ride ends. And then you get off. And it's not like, oh, can't we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It's like, no, the ride's over."

The full interview, in which Romney and his wife, Ann Romney, chat with Chris Wallace, will air on Sunday. Romney, who has been laying low since the end of the campaign, is also slated to speak a the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington next month.

Fixbits: 

Three Senate Democrats voted against their party's failed bill to avert the sequester. Nine Senate Republicans voted against their party's failed bill.

Boehner eschewed the "Hastert Rule" once again.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is still peeved about Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's vote against a Hurricane Sandy recovery aid package.

Bob Woodward says he "never characterized" Gene Sperling's language as a "threat."

Several potential 2016 presidential candidates will attend the Republican National Committee's quarterly finance meeting next month.

Sean Hannity said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has associated with "radicals."

The plot thickens for former Florida Republican congressman David Rivera.

Must-reads:

"Many Steps to Be Taken When 'Sequester' Is Law" -- Michael D. Shear, New York Times

"The Rehabilitation of Chuck Hagel" -- Michael Hirsh, National Journal

"House GOP Seeks Immigration Solution" -- Daniel Newhauser and David M. Drucker, Roll Call

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Sean Sullivan · February 28, 2013