Why backroom deals are out in 'sequester' talks
Backroom deals resolved the debt-ceiling crisis and the 'fiscal cliff' – why not the sequester? Because the House Republican rank and file are not allowing it.
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As McConnell's comments suggest, Republican leaders have heard the message loud and clear.Skip to next paragraph
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According to a recap of the Friday meeting from the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio: If a sequester fix is to be had, Speaker Boehner “suggested the most productive way to resolve the sequester issue will be through regular order.”
While "regular order" traditionally refers to the lengthy process of drawing bills through congressional committees, taking them onto the respective chamber’s floor for amendments, and then into a conference between the House and Senate to iron out the differences, the contemporary usage means something slightly different. It is code for congressional leaders sounding out their members earlier in the negotiating process to make sure the rank-and-file understand the plan going forward.
This approach appears to be the new operating procedure of House Republicans, in particular. Even some of the most boisterous critics of party leadership backed the idea when Republicans leaders opened debate on House strategy at their annual retreat in Williamsburg, Va., earlier this year.
“We finally have the Republican conference unified,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho. “The president has done a very good job over the last year of, you know, dividing this conference. And we’ve had all these different issues that we have been fighting about, and we finally have a plan, we have a vision.”
The main takeaway from Friday’s meeting appears to be a broadening consensus that Congress and the White House should work together to head off the next potential crisis: avoiding a government shutdown on March 27. That's welcome news to House Republicans looking to avoid last-minute, closed-door negotiations.
“The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the president’s sequester,” according to the statement from Boehner’s office,
Obama echoed that sentiment during his press conference following the meeting.
“There's no reason why we should have another crisis by shutting the government down in addition to these arbitrary spending cuts,” Obama said.
But the president, too, noted that even presidential influence can’t force an accord through private negotiations if congressional leaders are unwilling to bite.
“I am not a dictator, I'm the president,” Obama said. “So ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say, 'We need to go to catch a plane,' I can't have Secret Service block the doorway, right?”