Whether there are negotiations over the debt ceiling or not, there will be bipartisan talks over sequestration cuts and keeping the government's lights on very soon. For President Obama, there's no reason the two sides can't reach a "balanced" compromise.
Congressional Republican leaders are already insisting that won't happen. Take a look at this new op-ed from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):
Predictably, the President is already claiming that his tax hike on the "rich" isn't enough. I have news for him: the moment that he and virtually every elected Democrat in Washington signed off on the terms of the current arrangement, it was the last word on taxes. That debate is over.
House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office is thinking along similar lines.
Boehner and his aides have said the Speaker remains committed to a principle he first articulated in 2011 -- that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms that exceed the amount of new borrowing authority. The Speaker is also expected to resist Obama's push for another increase in taxes to offset the restoration of spending cuts from sequestration. "As far as we're concerned, the tax issue is off the table," the Boehner aide said.
I'll have a more detailed post on the debt-ceiling fight a little later, but for now, let's just focus on arithmetic, because we're talking about numbers that are almost amusing in scope.
According to GOP leaders, policymakers need to replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts with some other, comparable cuts, and need to come up with $1.5 trillion in cuts in order to raise the debt limit. Both will have to happen at around the same time, no later than the end of February, and be independent of the $1 trillion in cuts Obama already accepted during the last debt-ceiling fight in 2011.
In other words, according to public comments from McConnell and Boehner, Republicans seriously believe President Obama must accept $2.7 trillion in cuts -- without raising taxes at all -- within the next two months. And if not, there will be an enormous crisis.
And what is it, exactly, that GOP leaders expect to cut by $2.7 trillion? Oddly enough, they haven't said, but (a) Republicans apparently anticipate deep cuts to social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security; and (b) Democrats are supposed to help Republicans come up with the list of cuts.
This won't end well.