Last night, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney picked a Twitter fight with Republican Congressman Justin Amash over sequestration. We'll get to that online battle in a moment, but first, a word on Rep. Amash's misguided comments that caught Carney's attention in the first place. Amash has been publicly blasting Republican leadership for aggressively pinning the sequester on President Obama, arguing that it's "disingenuous" for members of Congress to vote for a compromise, then blame it on the other party. This needlessly and foolishly undermines the GOP's messaging on the issue. Republicans are not saying that the sequester is all Obama's fault, per se; they're correctly noting that it was his administration's idea. This is important because the White House is now trying to wriggle out of the previously agreed-upon cuts that the president signed into law, and they're trying blame Republicans for holding him to account. Amash's "principled" stand (which may or may not be motivated by a tiff he had with Boehner over committee assignments last year) is quite unhelpful, and tosses a life line to the White House. To wit, Carney was tweeting out excerpts of Amash's quotes in order to promulgate a narrative of Republican infighting over the looming automatic cuts. "See, even this Republican agrees that his party is wrong," is the message Carney hopes to drive. Frustrated that his comments were being exploited by the administration, Amash fired back on Twitter, asserting that the president's alarmist rhetoric about the "devastating" nature of the cuts is particularly disingenuous because he conceived of them and attached his signature to the law that codified them. Carney's response:
.@repjustinamash Sir - whole point of sequester, as u know, was to avoid it, BECAUSE it's devastating. Need to pass balanced buy-down.— Jay Carney (EOP) (@PressSec) February 14, 2013
This is revisionism. In fact, the whole point of the 2011 debt deal's sequester provision was to pressure the so-called 'Super Committee' to do its job and hammer out at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over ten years. The idea was that looming, automatic, across-the-board cuts that neither side would stomach easily would motivate the bipartisan twelve-member group to do their job. They did not. The six Republicans offered a slew of proposals, including a package of cuts, modest entitlement reform, tax reform, and yes, hundreds of billions in increased revenues. Democrats rejected it out of hand, and never proffered a unified alternative. In short, we don't have a solution, but we don't like yours. (Sound familiar?) Thus, as a matter of law, the Super Committee's inability to reach consensus, triggered the automatic cuts -- changes to which the president once vowed to use his veto pen to thwart:
"My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one "
The implementation of those spending reductions has been delayed several times, but they're finally slated to start kicking in on the first of March. Again, these are leftover cuts from legislation passed in the summer of 2011. The president, despite being dragged kicking and screaming into those negotiations, ended up taking credit for the resulting yet-to-happen spending reductions throughout the 2012 campaign, and again in this week's State of the Union Address. Now that the cuts that *he proposed* have finally arrived, he's insisting on replacing them with an unspecified "balanced" offset, including new tax increases. What's more, he's trying to make Republicans the villains for merely allowing the cuts he's touted to go into effect. The GOP, rightly, is telling him to pound sand and reminding the public that the cuts he's now denouncing were his concept to begin with. This is the correct course of action, Rep. Amash's histrionics notwithstanding.
Actions have consequences. The Democrats on the Super Committee were intransigent and unproductive, and the president made this sequestration bed -- now let him lie in it. And don't allow him to pawn the blame off on someone else, which is his predictable, tiresome habit. (For what it's worth, Republicans agree that the way these reductions are structured is deeply flawed. They've tried to replace them with a more responsible approach on several occasions; each effort was rebuffed by Democrats). I'll leave you with a reminder of just how "devastating" these cuts actually are: