See update below. Basically, you can ignore this entire post.
The original idea behind the sequester was simple: It was something so horrible that eventually a deal would be cut to replace it. Why was it so horrible? For Democrats, because of all the domestic spending cuts. For Republicans, because of all the defense spending cuts.
The flaw with this has always been the fact that if Congress wants to, it can simply choose to rescind some of the cuts but not others. “You can always put money back in for defense,” Tom DeLay remarked a few weeks ago, and that possibility makes the sequester a lot less scary for Republicans than it otherwise would be. Sure enough, Dave Weigel reports that House Republicans have already started the process:
It wasn’t even close. Shortly after 1 p.m., with plenty of time to catch flights home, Republican members of the House voted to approve the continuing resolution to fund the government through September. As written, it plussed up the defense funds that had been stricken by sequestration….Almost all Republicans, 214 of them, voted aye, and a Republican aide announcing the vote to reporters reminded them that they only needed 210 votes to pass it.
The bill could have passed with no Democratic votes, but 53 Democrats voted for it anyway. If there are enough Democratic defense hawks in the Senate—or even just senators afraid of being attacked for voting against the Pentagon—it’s possible that the defense cuts could get restored and the sequester would then turn into a pure domestic spending cut. Would Obama sign it if that’s the bill he gets? Or would he risk a government shutdown by vetoing it? We’ll have to wait and see how that goes.
UPDATE: According to the Washington Post, “The measure the House passed on Wednesday would provide new flexibility to the Pentagon to manage the sequester’s deep spending cuts, but would otherwise leave the reductions in place for the year.” Both the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal agree: the defense cuts are still in place, but the House bill gives the Pentagon a little more flexibility in where to apply them.