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“In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year,” President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Collectively referred to as the sequester, the president was referring to a mechanism that would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the next nine years — $85 billion over the next seven months — that would be so obviously bad for the United States economy that it would become the common enemy that united Democrats and Republicans. The theory was that, when presented with what the president described as sudden, harsh, and arbitrary spending cuts to the defense, energy, education, and healthcare budgets, congressional leaders could buck up and come up with something better.
But if the high-stakes season of Days of Our Lives that has been Washington over the past few months has taught Americans anything, it’s that elected officials usually shoot themselves in the foot with commitment devices, like we saw with the fiscal cliff. And now that there’s just over two weeks before the March 1 deadline, a $110 billion Democratic proposal designed to delay the spending cuts for 10 months is being treated like a political chess piece before it even makes it to a vote…
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