Incompatible Plans

In case you’re having trouble keeping track of the various proposals out there for delaying or replacing the March 1 appropriations “sequester,” Brad Plumer has a handy-dandy guide at WaPo’s Wonkblog. The House and Senate Democratic plans all lean pretty heavily on some version of the “Buffet Rule” tax increase on the very rich. The President’s sketchier outline of a proposal is also “balanced” between revenue increases and spending cuts. The most recent plan enacted by House Republicans focuses primarily on low-income non-defense discretionary programs, actually killing some.

Now there’s always a chance the White House and Congress will decide (before or after letting the across-the-board cuts kick in, with all the attendant panic and gloom) to delay the sequester without replacing it with legislation achieving equivalent savings, implicitly or explicitly making the midterms a referendum on fiscal policy. Or they could come up with something even more gimmicky than the sequester itself that somehow delays action.

But I don’t see any way they’re actually going to agree on a “replacement” package, for the simple reason that the inclusion of revenues has become a deal-breaker for both sides. I can’t see Republicans sacrificing their “we’re done with revenues” posture over something as relatively small as the sequesters. And I doubt we’ll ever again see congressional Democrats or the Obama White House going for a deficit reduction measure with no revenues. So if your life in any way depends on the federal (or federal-state) programs subject to the sequester, get ready for some idiotic disruption.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.