How did we get here?
The seeds of the sequester were sown by a demand by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that the 2011 debt limit increase be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by cuts in federal spending. After ‘‘grand bargain’’ talks between Boehner and Obama broke down, the White House came up with the sequester idea as a way to guarantee large enough deficit cuts to offset enough new borrowing to make sure Washington didn’t have to revisit the debt limit until after the 2012 elections. The sequester threat was designed to be so harsh that it would drive the sides to compromise on an alternative.
It didn’t work. House Republicans twice last year passed legislation to replace the cuts with larger savings drawn from programs like food stamps and federal employee pensions. Democrats controlling the Senate didn’t offer an alternative and instead put their faith in postelection negotiations to avert the ‘‘fiscal cliff,’’ which resulted in Obama claiming victory on his promise to raise taxes on the rich but only a two-month respite from the sequester. Now, Republicans say they won’t give in to demands by Obama and the Democrats controlling the Senate for higher taxes as part of any solution.