Making the Sequester Slightly Less Stupid

TPM’s Brian Beutler reports today that Senate Republicans are mulling over offering as their own “replacement plan” for the appropriations sequester a provision that would give agency administrators flexibility to implement the required cuts as they wish (at least for the remainder of the fiscal year) so long as the overall spending targets are met. In other words, the deliberately hammer-headed method of cutting appropriations across-the-board would be abandoned, although the more general stupidity of pretending the non-exempt agencies and programs deserve this level of cuts will be left in place.

Beutler figures Senate Democrats will vote this approach down in the process of passing their own “replacement” bill requiring an entirely different deficit reduction formula that includes revenues, which in turn is DOA in the House. So he considers the whole idea just another ploy to shift blame when the dire effects of the sequester go live.

Maybe so, but I gotta say the White House ought to at least consider some way to quietly encourage this measure if all else fails. We obviously haven’t seen the exact language, but in effect it would give Obama administration officials (in this funding cycle, at least) the pick-and-choose power normally exercised by congressional appropriators. It would make the inherently stupid sequester less stupid, and might actually mitigate the damage.

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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.