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.
President Obama’s meeting with congressional leaders on Friday offered no inkling of compromise between lawmakers and Mr. Obama on the automatic spending reductions known as the “sequester” beginning the same day.
But it illuminated a lot about how, this time, negotiations are likely to be different. Remember the private conversations between the president and Republican leaders that eventually resolved the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis and last year's "fiscal cliff"? There will likely be less of those and more bills moving through Congress.
Backroom deals are out; “regular order” is in.
"Over the coming weeks, we’ll have the opportunity to ensure funding is at the level we promised while working on solutions for making spending reductions more intelligently than the president’s across-the-board cuts," said Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky in a statement. "But I want to make clear that any solutions will be done through the regular order, with input from both sides of the aisle in public debate. I will not be part of any backroom deal and I will absolutely not agree to increase taxes.”
Republicans are loath to engage in the same kind of behind-the-scenes talks going forward because the most conservative members of the GOP rank-and-file see such private leadership klatches as ways for leadership to sell out. Their prime example is the fiscal cliff deal struck between Vice President Joe Biden and Senator McConnell, in which many Republicans were compelled to choke down voting for the first tax increase in nearly two decades.
“Following the New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff negotiations, Americans demanded that Washington get serious about spending,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas before Friday's meeting. “Instead, the White House is calling for yet another 11th-hour, closed-door meeting just like the ones that got us into this mess.