No Sequester Solution, but Plenty of Kabuki Theater

The Senate voted down both the Dem and GOP (feeble) attempts to end the sequester today.  For those of you keeping score at home, we name names below.

The GOP had the opportunity to give the President more flexibility on the cuts, so that they wouldn’t be mindlessly across-the-board.  But that bill, proposed by James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, didn’t cede Congress’ spending authority to Obama.  Obama would have had to preview how he was allocating the cuts, and Congress could have overridden his choices.

The bill lost a vote to break a Dem filibuster, 38 to 62, with nine Republicans opposing it.  They were John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey “Butters” Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine.  Two Dems voted for it — Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.  I would have voted for it.

Then there was the Dem bill that would have cut defense and agriculture and raised taxes on millionaires as a substitute for the sequester (although the CBO scoring showed that it fell $7 billion short).  It would have passed 52-48 (51-49 at the end because Majority Leader Reid switched his vote so the bill can come up again), but the GOP filibustered it, so it needed 60 votes.  Three Democrats voted against it — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.  I would have voted for that one too.

But although I would have voted for both these bills, I mostly think the sequester is much ado about a measly $44 billion (not $85 billion) in a $16 trillion economy.

Obama and Congress supposedly wanted to threaten cuts that were so apocalyptic they would never be allowed to happen.  Obviously, these cuts weren’t it — they’re happening, and they’re not the end of the world.

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Shame on Sean

Well, and shame on me for allowing myself to be even a tiny bit surprised!

Sean Hannity led into his interview with Bob Woodward tonight by quoting only in part from the email where Gene Sperling says Woodward will regret saying Obama moved the goalposts on the sequester by asking for revenues.  Sean ended his quote with the “regret” part and completely ignored the lengthy and wonky factual explanation of why Woodward would regret it (which I quoted in a post earlier today).  That explanation shows that Sperling meant Woodward would be embarrassed by his position, not that the White House would come after him.

As Woodward has become more and more anti-Obama, Sean has had him on his show more often.  I think he let his liking for Woodward override the best way to handle this situation, which is to let it die ASAP.  Sean isn’t helping the conservative cause here.  He should have followed the lead of fellow conservatives who quickly backed away from the story today when the emails were released.

With Friends Like These…

In trying to show the absurdity of claiming that White House economic adviser Gene Sperling threatened Bob Woodward, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes that Sperling is “as diminutive as he is nerdy.”

And Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine calls Sperling “a diminutive but feisty policy wonk.”

Ouch!

How short is this poor guy exactly?  Are we talking Robert Reich, are we talking “follow the yellow brick road”?

Woodward Losing Conservative Sympathy — Fast

The right is running from the “White House threatened Bob Woodward” meme now that the actual emails have been released, and Gene Sperling doesn’t sound anything like Tony Soprano.

RedState’s Erick Erickson says, “I must now move to the ‘not a threat’ camp.”

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis says, “Looks like we were played.”

Woodward will be on Hannity tonight — we’ll see how Sean spins it.

There’s really nothing here, and I hope it evaporates quickly.  It’s sad to see Woodward end up like this.

Woodward Threatened? Give Me a Break.

I believe that way too much is being made of White House economics adviser Gene Sperling’s comment to Bob Woodward that he would “regret” taking the position that the White House was moving the goal posts by asking for tax increases to resolve the sequester.  Some in the media are taking it as a threat to Woodward either personally or professionally or both.

When you read the Sperling-Woodward emails*, it is obvious that Sperling believes Woodward would be embarrassed on the merits and historical accuracy of his claim, not that he’d better check under his car before starting it.

Here’s Sperling:

“But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post.  I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.  The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start.  It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start.  Really.  It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after:  it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations.  There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial.  (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA [the Budget Control Act]:  the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)”

This isn’t threatening, it’s wonky!

* “Exclusive:  The Woodward, Sperling emails revealed,” Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Politico