Is the GOP attempting to rewrite history on the sequester? It certainly seems that way.
First, let’s recap: In August 2011, the sequester was agreed upon as part of the Budget Control Act, amid fierce battles over raising the debt ceiling. The nation’s borrowing limit was raised at the very last minute, in exchange for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Those cuts were to be decided upon later by a bipartisan group of lawmakers—the super committee—or parts of the budget near and dear to each party would face an indiscriminate axing. Of course, the super committee failed, and after various delays and can-kickings, we now stand to see these ruthless across-the-board cuts, including $85 billion in reductions this year, on Friday.
The aim of the sequester was to make it an enforcement tool, equally painful for both Dems and the GOP. Big cuts in defense spending would terrify the right. Meanwhile, the prospect of cuts to government programs like education, childcare and the environment would pressure Dems to make a deal. Or so the thinking went.
The law that set the table for the sequester passed the House 269-161, with more Republicans voting in favor than against. In fact, 174 GOPers greenlighted it, compared to 66 who shot it down. On the left, 95 Dems voted for it and 95 voted against it. It passed in the Senate, 74-26. Of the 74 yes votes, 28 were from GOPers.
But, implausibly, today many Republicans are trying to pin the blame on Obama and the Dems—even though they voted for the sequester in the first place.
Several GOPers have even gone as far to create the hashtag #Obamaquester in effort to blame the commander-in-chief. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has accused Republicans of “amnesia” over the bill many GOPers once supported. Surprisingly, even Rep Justin Amash, R-Mich., has said it’s a mistake by Republicans to lay fault at Obama’s feet.
“It’s totally disingenuous,” he told Buzzfeed. “The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats. And regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it.”
Here are highlights from some GOPers who seem to be changing their tune:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
2011: “The bill does not solve the problem but it at least forces Washington to admit that it has one,” and the upcoming debate is not “something to dread.”
2013: Obama is presenting the country with only two options: “Armageddon or a tax hike. Well it’s a false choice and he knows it. But then the president is master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government.”
Speaker John Boehner
2011:“When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98% of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.”
2013: The cuts are “Obama’s sequester.”… The Senate needs to get “off their ass” and do something… “The American people know if the president gets more money they’re going to spend it. The fact is that he’s gotten his tax hikes. It’s time to focus on the real problem here I Washington and that’s spending.”
Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida
2011: Miller voted for the sequester.
2013: The “Administration’s sequestration threatens to reduce our military’s readiness and throw our nation into another recession.”
Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois
2011: Roskam, too, voted in favor of the sequestration.
2013: “The sequester is the president’s sequester.”
Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia
In 2011: Cantor acknowledged the Budget Control Act was “not perfect” but praised the House for having “prevented default and boosted economic certainty by ensuring America pays its bills while we start getting our fiscal house in order…It will finally begin to change the way Washington spends its taxpayers dollars.”
In 2013: “The president, he’s the one that proposed the sequester in the first place.”
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
In 2011: “What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years, are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money,” he told Fox News. “…And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a super-majority vote. We got that into law. “On the House floor, he said the law was “a victory for those committed to controlling government spending.”
In 2013: The sequester “will probably occur” because “the president has not a proposal yet on the table…Don’t forget, it’s the president who first proposed the sequester. It’s the president who designed the sequester as it is now designed.”
For more on the fiscal fight, turn into Hardball tonight at 5 and 7 p.m. ET. We’ll have MSNBC political analysts Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary on to weigh in.