Today, President Obama called on Congress to pass a package of spending cuts and tax changes to delay the upcoming massive budget cuts known as the sequester, scheduled to begin on March 1.
Although Obama and Congressional Republicans insisted last year that the sequester would not happen, those Republicans are now saying they might be okay with the major budget cuts because it would provide for cuts that the president isn't willing to make on his own.
"If Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package, if they can't get a bigger package done by the time the sequester is scheduled to go into effect," said President Obama in the White House briefing room, "then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months."
Supposedly everyone in Washington thought the sequester — which would ultimately cut $1.1 billion in spending, half from defense and half from domestic programs — would not and could not happen, but Republicans have been singing a different tune in recent weeks.
In today's Politico, Pinellas Congressman Bill Young said:
"I'm reading what a lot of different members are saying, and I find there's not as much opposition to sequestration as I thought there might be."
"I don't think I have any real feeling for which direction this House is going, and this is the first time in a long time that I haven't had a pretty good feel for it."
The sequester would also hit Medicare, cutting $11 billion in payments to doctors, hospitals and health care providers.
House Speaker John Boehner said it was Obama who initially came up with the sequester idea, and that trading that plan in for raising taxes is not going to fly with his caucus.
"There is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes," Boehner said. "The president's sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years."
Last month, Boehner boasted to the Wall Street Journal that even though the House didn't get all they wanted in the fiscal cliff negotiations, he has the sequester in his "back pocket." He said it's the most leverage he'll have going into this latest tug-of-war of negotiating budget reductions.
Despite senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham once claiming that such budget cuts to defense would be horrific — a point reiterated over the weekend by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — it appears that some Republicans are declaring they can, in fact, now live with the sequester.