As you've probably heard, tomorrow is the deadline for automatic sequestration cuts, and it's extraordinarily unlikely that a bipartisan deal will come together, receive votes in both chambers, and be signed into law in the next 36 hours.
And while there aren't any meaningful talks or negotiations underway to stop this self-inflicted wound, there is a relatively new effort drawing attention that's intended to kinda sorta help, at least according to GOP proponents.
Congressional Republicans are preparing to counter increasingly dire warnings from President Obama about the impact of automatic budget cuts with a plan to give the administration more flexibility in instituting $85 billion in cuts, a proposal they say could protect the most vital programs while shifting more of the political fallout to the White House. [...]Seeking to shift responsibility for the cuts to Mr. Obama and to defang attacks by the White House, Republicans were expected to unveil legislation on Tuesday that they said would mitigate some of the biggest concerns. The measure would let agencies and departments cull programs that were long ago proved to be ineffective, and would make sure critical federal functions like air traffic control and meat inspection were spared.
The rough outline of the GOP plan is pretty straightforward. If nothing changes between now and tomorrow night, there will be automatic, across-the-board cuts totaling $85 billion this year. The Republican proposal would eliminate the indiscriminate qualities of sequestration, and effectively give the White House the power of a small purse: the administration would still have to cut $85 billion, but it would be up to Obama and his team, not the existing sequester policy, to decide what would get cut and what wouldn't.
To put it mildly, the White House is not fond of the idea. The president doesn't want the flexibility to pick and choose where he has to cut $85 billion this year; he wants to replace the dangerous policy with a more sensible one. Obama also realizes that if he, and he alone, is making the calls as to where the ax falls, he's more likely to get blamed for unpopular cuts.
As a consequence, even if Republicans rallied behind this plan in earnest, and it somehow passed both chambers, a presidential veto would be inevitable. And at this point, it probably won't come to that -- GOP leaders hoped to unveil something last night, but that didn't happen when several Republican lawmakers balked at handing congressional spending powers over to the White House.
So, what happens now?
The Senate will probably vote tomorrow on a Democratic compromise that replaces the sequester with a balanced deal -- some cuts, some revenue. It will almost certainly be killed by a Republican filibuster, at which point, there will be nothing more to consider. House Republicans continue to refuse to bring a sequester alternative to the floor for consideration, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded yesterday that he doesn't intend to do anything on the subject before the deadline.
With failure inevitable, the White House is already planning the next round of talks -- the day after the deadline.
After weeks of argument over the sequester, bipartisan congressional leaders will meet with the president at the White House on Friday -- the same day that automatic federal spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect.President Barack Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the across-the-board budget reductions to federal agencies, aides told NBC News.
So long as the Republican position is that they'll only tolerate 100% of what they want, I'm not sure how productive the discussions will be, but I suppose we'll find out soon enough.