Have House Republicans forgotten the debt-ceiling fight?

September 11, 2012

John Boehner believes there is one person to blame for the defense cuts poised to take effect on Jan. 1. "Look at Mr. Woodward's book that came out this morning, page 326. It makes it perfectly clear, where the sequester came from," the House Speaker told reporters Tuesday morning. "The president didn't want his reelection inconvenienced over another $1.2 trillion increase in the debt-ceiling."


Obama, Boehner meet at White House. (Getty Images)

In that section of "The Price of Politics," Post editor Bob Woodward explains how top White House officials had proposed the idea of having the automatic defense and domestic spending cuts if the supercommittee failed to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Of course, Republicans — Boehner included — had agreed to the deal as well. The defense cuts were part of those consequences. What's more, House Republicans refused to agree to a debt-ceiling deal that didn't include some kind of consequence if the supercommittee failed. The White House, conversely, would happily have signed a clean debt-ceiling increase. But the Republicans said there would be no deal if there wasn't some kind of deficit-reducing backstop in the event the supercommittee failed. That's where the sequester came from.

And Democrats insist that they chose their particular poison: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Politico that they offered the GOP the option of having "a lot of special interest tax loopholes" eliminated instead if the supercommittee failed, but that Republicans chose the defense sequester option instead.

Boehner did allude in passing to these GOP demands on the deficit on Tuesday. "Somehow we have to deal with our spending problem. America spends more money than it takes in," he said. And he briefly acknowledged his own role in the negotiations: "I look at my failure to come to an agreement with the president as the biggest disappointment of my speakership."

But Boehner and his colleagues devoted most of the news conference to blaming Democrats for failing to come up with a sequester alternative. "The House has done its job. We continue to wait for the Senate," Boehner said. "The president should be called upon and asked, 'what is his plan? How is he going to lead to make sure our military is not hollowed out?'" added House GOP Leader Eric Cantor. This glossed over the fact that the president has, in fact, offered up a sequester alternative, albeit one that Republicans have unanimously rejected. That seems to be just one more episode in this saga that Republicans have forgotten.

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Brad Plumer · September 11, 2012