Boehner’s Dishonest Sequester Blame Game

John Boehner and his fellow Republicans have been furiously trying to pin all the blame for the sequester on President Obama, despite the fact that it was Congress that passed the law. But John Avlon of the Daily Beast shows a Powerpoint presentation from Boehner to his caucus explaining why they should vote for the sequestration deal, because it would “hold President Obama accountable.”

The latest semantic spin is to call the looming $1.2 trillion in cuts, which could throw the whole economy back into recession, “Obama’s Sequester.” House Speaker John Boehner indulged this approach half a dozen times in a floor speech before he went on break, establishing its place in the talking-points firmament.

There are a couple problems with this tactic, as my colleague Michael Tomasky pointed out Tuesday. Congress passed sequestration before the president signed it, and the whole self-defeating exercise was carried out in response to Tea Party Republicans’ insistence that we play chicken with the debt ceiling, which ultimately cost America its AAA credit rating.

But here’s the thing. I happened to come across an old email that throws cold water on House Republicans’ attempts to call this “Obama’s Sequester.”

It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled: “Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable.”

It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that “sequestration” was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending—the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.

You can see the full presentation at the link above. 218 Republicans in the House voted for the sequestration deal, with only 22 voting no. All 188 Democrats voted no. But the very people who voted for it now want to blame someone else.

In reality, the opposite is true. The Obama administration is now urging Congress to scuttle the sequester, not only to avoid the spending cuts on the domestic side but also to avoid any real cuts to defense. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote a letter to Boehner the other day claiming, absurdly, that the tiny cuts to defense spending in the sequestration deal would harm national security.

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  • abb3w

    Blame for originating the idea appears to fall on the Obama White House, and on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who would therefore deserve at least some of the blame. However, the vote on adoption would seem to indicate it was far more popular in Republican circles than among Democrats; and the lions share of the blame would seem to belong to those turning the (20-20 hindsight) bad idea into reality.

    Also, my impression is that the substantive problem is not the magnitude of the cuts (which the GOP chicken-little on about), but the blindness of their distribution — all programs in the military budget reduced in funding by an equal percentage. It’s unlikely to allow the Canadians to invade, however.

  • emc2

    This is a little misleading.

    House vote 677 was voted on July 29 two days before the presentation, and was killed by the Senate:

    The bill finally signed by President Obama on August 1 was from house vote 690 that 95 Democrats voted for.

  • Randomfactor

    Blame for originating the idea appears to fall on the Obama White House,

    He overestimated the Republicans’ sanity, again.

  • abb3w “It’s unlikely to allow the Canadians to invade, however.”

    But can we really take that chance?

  • “It’s unlikely to allow the Canadians to invade, however.”

    I, for one, welcome our new poutine-bearing overlords.

  • Plus, hockey. And our football fields will be 10 yards longer.

  • fifthdentist, 9.144 meters. Get used to it, eh.

  • abb3w

    @2, emc2:

    This is a little misleading.

    A notable point; “more popular in Republican circles than among Democrats” still holds, though.

  • greg1466

    Why do I keep flashing back to the New Sheriff scene from Blazing Saddles…

  • sinned34

    If Canada successfully topples your regime, you’ll get universal health care and gay marriage. Unfortunately you’ll also get hate speech laws and a conservative government that dreams of acting like your Republicans, but knows if it skews any further right than your Democrats it’ll likely lose it’s majority government.

  • Michael Heath

    Let’s be clear what motivated the idea of a sequester, which was a GOP that was incapable of working in the nation’s best interest and needed a narrative to get out of doing so back in 2011.

    “Obama’s Sequester” is working with the meat-world Tea Partiers who bring this up to me. In spite of the fact I do not talk politics in meat-world with these people – ever (which suggests they’re animated enough to bring up the topic in spite of politics not being a topic of discussion). Fox News and viral emails at work I’m sure (most don’t have the reception to hear Rush Limbaugh in these parts).

  • Look, people, it’s really quite simple: The Sequester is bad because if we don’t blindly cut spending we’ll have to blindly cut spending.