Some of the basics of the sequester are not in dispute. We know, for example, that both Democrats and Republicans believe the automatic sequestration cuts would do real harm to the country. We also know that these cuts, approved as a tactic to bring both sides to the negotiating table, will happen in just 16 days unless there's a compromise.
And that's pretty much where the areas of agreement end.
A closer look at the details of the Republican position reveals a series of problems. GOP officials argue that the sequester is President Obama's fault, but that isn't true. They argue that the White House hasn't offered a sequester alternative, and that isn't true. They've said the Senate's Democratic majority isn't offering an alternative, and that isn't true.
But my personal favorite is the notion that House Republicans have offered a sequester alternative, which is comically untrue. Brian Beutler reported an amazing quote yesterday from House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office.
"The House has acted to prevent the devastating consequences of President Obama's sequester," Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, told TPM Monday. "We passed a bill more than six months ago, we passed a bill six weeks ago. The President and Senate Democrats now have the responsibility to act."
I'd love to know whether Michael Steel was able to say this with a straight face, or whether even he realizes how silly his own talking points are.
Even John Boehner and his aides must have some basic understanding of the legislative process, and surely realize that proposals that passed the House in the last Congress no longer have any value in the new Congress.
"We passed a bill more than six months ago"? That's very nice, but since it wasn't this Congress, that bill is now void, and the House still needs to do something. "We passed a bill six weeks ago"? I'm happy for you, but since it wasn't this Congress, that bill is now void, too.
Let's make this very simple to understand: sometime over the next 16 days, Congress has to pass an alternative to the sequester, pass a bill delaying the sequester, pass a bill scrapping the sequester, or accept the painful consequences of the sequester. There are no other options.
Senate Democrats have a possible solution, the White House has a proposed solution, and President Obama is open to further talks. Boehner's office, at this point, has literally nothing -- no alternative bill, no plans for an alternative bill, and no desire to compromise.
That's not a matter of opinion; it's just an accurate description of where things stand. When Majority Leader Eric Cantor says, "The House has put forward an alternative plan," he's either deeply confused or he assumes you're easily confused.
If House Republicans want to prove their critics wrong, they can propose a solution or take a seat at the negotiating table. Right now, they prefer to do neither.
As Boehner's spokesperson, if "the President and Senate Democrats now have the responsibility to act," so does your boss. He is the Speaker of the House, after all, who helped get us into this mess in the first place.