Softening The Sequester

Digby

We more or less knew about this already, but this is another version:

At the end of a long White House meeting between Senate Republicans and President Barack Obama during the government shutdown, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) threw out a question: Would the president insist on raising tax revenue as part of a deal to soften the sequester?

Obama’s surprise answer: No, according to senators who were present and aides briefed on the discussion.

As formal talks open Wednesday, Obama’s response has given Republicans some hope they may be able to cut at least a narrow deal with Democrats to overhaul the sequestration cuts before the Dec. 13 deadline. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has even brought up the interaction several times in meetings with GOP senators since then, sources said.

But not to worry. He’s playing eleventy dimensional chess so it’s all good:

There’s just one problem: Obama’s position isn’t as simple as he made it sound. Obama responded that way because he did not want to nix options on a smaller package before the House-Senate conference committee work was even under way, according to a source familiar with White House thinking. It depends on the size of the deal, but the president would demand that any big package with entitlement reforms includes new revenue, the source said.

The mixed signal points up the challenges of the next round of budget talks, which may prove no more productive than the last one that resulted in a 16-day shutdown. The big fight this time is likely to be more about rolling back the sequester than Obamacare, and the parties remain sharply at odds over how — or even whether — to replace the across-the-board spending cuts.

I guess he’s just giving them a false sense of security. Or something.

It is just a teensy bit worrying that the White House has to step up and explain virtually every day now that just because it sounds like White House officials and the president are putting entitlements on the chopping block doesn’t mean they really are doing it.

“The president has been clear that any budget solution must have balance, which is why he has proposed a way to replace the sequester and achieve even more deficit reduction through a mix of revenues, targeted spending cuts and savings in entitlement programs,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. “As the conference begins its work, the president will continue to insist that they are focusing on growing our economy and creating good jobs with good wages, because we can’t cut our way to prosperity.”

Needless to say, even if the president were to replace the sequester with “even more deficit reduction through a mix of revenues, targeted spending cuts and ‘savings’ in entitlement programs” which he continuously says he wants, it would be a massive sellout that would destroy any progressive legacy he might be thinking he’s going to have. As would any deal to cut benefits to vital social insurance programs that are already inadequate. Just saying.

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