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The Sequester: Obama or Congressional Republicans to Blame?

Updated on February 26, 2013
House Speaker Boehner speaking about the "Obamaquester," a nickname for the Sequester, which points to blaming President Obama.
House Speaker Boehner speaking about the "Obamaquester," a nickname for the Sequester, which points to blaming President Obama. | Source

The answer to that question is a bit complicated. But, first, I'll explain what the Sequester is for those who don't know. Don't worry, I won't bore you with the details. Actually, I probably will anyway.

In essence, the sequester is scheduled set of mandatory budget cuts, about half of which would come from defense. The other half is made up of a mixture of discretionary and entitlement cuts. It was set up during the Debt Ceiling negotiation of 2011. The goal was to motivate lawmakers into striking a compromise and cutting the budget by 1.2 trillion over 10 years. They had around 18 months to replace the scheduled cuts with alternatives, but have been completely unable to thus far and it looks like they won't before the March 1st deadline.

So, that's what the Sequester is. But, who is to blame for this?

The Blame Game

There are many people to blame, depending on how you look at it. But, here's a short list at why.

1. President Obama and the Obama administration

This one is obvious. In the Debt Ceiling negotiations, the Sequester originated from Obama and his staff. So, from that angle, he's certainly liable. I assume they saw it as an opportunity to pressure congress into action. It seems that they overestimated the efficiency of congress. It's also good to note that congressional Republicans agreed to such a plan.

2. Congressional Republicans

In recent polling, over 40% of Americans would blame the GOP for the sequester cuts happening. Only around 20% would blame Obama, so he certainly has the advantage. But, why would they be to blame if Obama came up with it? Well, they are being seen as obstructionists. It's true that House Republicans passed a plan to replace the cuts, but they also knew it would have no chance in the Senate of passing. It was essentially passed, so they could say they passed something. Same thing happened with the two Ryan budgets, which had no chance in hell of passing in the Senate because of the deep entitlement cuts that most Americans are against.

Now, compromise generally works this way: someone proposes a plan, and then someone else comes back with a counteroffer. So, should the Democrats have come back with a counteroffer? Well, here's why not. Congressional Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they will accept no new revenues as part of a deal to replace the Sequester cuts. Mainly, this message is coming from the leadership. Some Republicans (mainly GOP Governors worried about its effect in their state) have been open to the idea. Sadly, they are not in Congress. So, when the two parties are so far apart, it's hard to really strike a compromise at all because one side won't even participate. This is why they are currently set to be blamed for it.

3. Congress in general

The fact that they had 18 months to find alternative cuts and still couldn't do it just speaks to the complete ineptitude of Congress. It's my personal belief that Republicans are largely to blame for this dysfunction. Democrats have been open to compromises to entitlements. Honestly, I should say Obama was and is open to it. Some Democratic Senators and Representatives are very against it. So, Obama is a bit more open to it, since he proposed tying Social Security to the CPI index, thereby shaving off a small percent to beneficiary payments. Not at all popular with Congressional Democrats. But, when push comes to shove, House Minority Leader Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Reid could probably get their members to vote for it. Speaker Boehner can't control his Tea Party members because they have allegiance to no one and are certainly more conservative than even the leadership.

Enough blame to go around

So, there's enough blame to go around. Obama is to blame for coming up with it. Congressional Republicans are to blame for being obstructionists, who don't want to compromise with Obama, and are thus causing the Sequester to go off. It seems like far too late for any sort of compromise to be made. The deadline is March 1st, but it's quite likely they could replace the cuts retroactively. That's likely to happen, but probably only after the effects of austerity kick in once the cuts hit home.


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    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 

      5 years ago

      Very nicely done, Steven Dison. I think maybe the situation should be described like this; Obama gets the blame for assuming that his presence alone can get some compromise done. Republicans get the blame for acting like spoiled children in a sandbox. All of Congress gets the blame for its procrastination.

      Why won't Republicans come up with a good compromise that Democrats can work with, and ultimately get something good that both sides either like or hate, and will get something done regardless? Because Republicans are still (Still!) reeling from their defeat in November. They can't figure out why Obama got reelected, and believe that their problems can be "fixed" by changing their language. Instead, majorities of Americans are backing Obama right now because majorities agree with the way he wants to approach the problem. That's why they see Republicans as "obstructionists."

      Its not like Democrats are blameless; some of them still need to accept that cuts need to be made to entitlement spending. But like you said, Democrats can be made to fall in line if the need arises. Republicans have to accept that taxes need to go up as well, as is in the Presidents plan. Its clear that while both sides get the blame, Republicans get more of the blame.

      I agree with your analysis. Voted up.

    • Steven Dison profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Dison 

      5 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      1. Biden didn't say the economy was fine, he said that *WE'LL* be fine. Big difference. The crises are annoying and serious, but certainly won't crush our country into oblivion or anything.

      2. Obama's perfectly open to compromise. He's offering to chain the Social Security payments to the CPI. That's a pretty big concession from a Democrat.

      3. Obama isn't against spending cuts. His proposal has spending cuts. Not sure how you guys missed that one.

      4. Why bring them up for a vote if they are not going to pass? With the 55 seats in the Senate, the Democrats control it. There's no reason to waste time voting on a bill that will ultimately fail. They have whips for a reason: to count votes. It's idiotic to say they need to vote to see how many votes they'll get. It's called counting. The balanced approach Obama proposed has a better shot in the House. You would only need a small amount of Republicans and the rest would be Democrats. I'll give Boehner credit for doing that on the fiscal cliff bill. Putting it up for a vote despite the majority of his caucus against it. Very ballsy and I think it was great.

      5. He's very open to compromise. The Republicans won't even come to the table anymore. He's offered up many cuts to entitlements, especially in the "grand bargain" with John Boehner. Please look it up. All he's asking for is a balanced approach. I really don't see why that's whining like a baby. Also, you can stop the petty insults. They really make you look like a child.

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

      5 years ago

      1. You know, it's hard to lie when there is video.

      And Biden just recently said There is more work to be done, he said, but “we’re going to do just FINE in terms of our economic ‘crisis’ and the cliffs that are about to approach,” referring to recent disagreements over raising the national debt ceiling and the possibility of mandatory federal spending cuts known as “sequestration” that will begin March 1 unless the U.S. Congress comes to an agreement that would avoid them. “The strength of our economy at home is the most fundamental source of our power and influence in the world,” Biden said, and U.S. economic well-being is among the country’s “strategic obligations to the rest of the world.” google it if you don't believe me.

      Sounds like they think the economy is fine to me.

      2. So he doesn't have to compromise at all he already got taxes but has to have more taxes to give any cuts? And that isn't obstructionist?

      3. So they can be against tax hikes and are obstructionists but Obama against spending cuts is not obstructionist?

      4. So it's not obstructionist to ignore their bills and not even bring them up for debate, amendment or a vote - you are so lame.

      5. Yeah they wanted them but instead gave him his tax rate hike - what are they doing negotiating with a baby who will wine unless he gets it all his way? That's not compromise - You need to think for yourself and stop reading your talking points.

    • Steven Dison profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Dison 

      5 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      The original "deal" was always going to be balanced. Hence why he is looking to close loopholes and deductions in his proposal. It's true that the bill that avoided the fiscal cliff was entirely new revenue. But, it was only 600 billion or so. He was always aiming for at least double that in the original deal. 50% cuts and 50% new revenue. I don't see why that's so controversial. Cutting too much causes austerity. Just look at Spain, which has an unemployment rate above 30%, among other European countries. Cutting the budget is necessary, but must be done carefully and over the very long term, as to not hinder the economy.

    • Steven Dison profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Dison 

      5 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      1. Never once has Obama or Biden said the economy is fine. They usually say it's on the upswing, but is still fragile.

      2. Obama's proposal to avoid the sequester has cuts in it. It's balanced with new revenue, but has cuts.

      3. They did pass the bill to avert the fiscal cliff, but only near the end when time was up. Before that, they were adamantly against any tax increases and thus, being obstructionists.

      4. The bills that the Republicans have passed are completely made up of spending cuts. A lot of which come from entitlements. Obviously, they know this would never pass the Senate. They passed it so they could say they passed it.

      5. Obama's new revenue in his deal is reached by closing loopholes and deductions. Both of which the Republicans supported recently. Only now are they saying "no new revenue!"

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      5 years ago from Central Texas

      I can't find the Republican's obstructionists and un-coperative when obviously they acquiesed to the president to begin with and are pretty much demanding that he keep his side of the original deal. It's obviously not equitable to strike a deal with liars or the devil -- 'nuff said. Best/Sis

    • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

      Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

      5 years ago

      Odd that you call the Republican's obstructionists when they did compromise and give Obama his tax increase, all Obama has to do is give them some spending cuts - he won't ! The republicans in the house have passed multiple bills that would avoid the Sequester -the Senate won't even take them up for debate. Why aren't they obstuctionists? Sounds like a one sided view you present here.

      According to the President and Ole' Joe Biden "the economy is fine" - therefore any fallout from sequester should be taken up by the "great" economy anyway (if you can beleieve them) - big deal Sequester will cut 44 billion from an over 3.5 trillion dollar budget this year, still much more even with the sequester cut than was spent last year. Give me a break.


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