The sequester deadline has come and gone and nobody in Washington is anywhere closer to finding a solution to reducing the federal deficit than they were 18 months ago when they first agreed to it.
Indeed, things are so bad, even the Senate’s contingent of moderate do-gooders is sitting this one out.
Ever since the “nuclear option” fight during the Bush administration, knots of moderate senators have been at the heart of nearly every major crises facing Congress, crafting compromises behind closed doors while dozens of reporters hover expectantly outside.
Although they’ve rarely produced a plan that becomes the final agreement, their presence has acted as a not-so-gentle prod to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the White House, none of whom want to have their hands forced by the middle.
But this time around, there’s been no posse comitatus to hunt down a sequester compromise. Lawmakers involved in previous efforts told BuzzFeed there are a variety of reasons that the sequester is different than the debt ceiling, the 2009 tax extensions, the nuclear option, or other crises.
Part of the problem is that without downward pressure from the nation’s top political leaders, there’s little incentive for moderates to try and find common ground, said Finance Chairman Max Baucus.
“Well it’s because the president and the speaker are not negotiating on the sequester… which makes it tough,” Baucus said this week, explaining that there’s not been the sort of urgency and conflict that traditionally set the table for a gang to emerge in the Senate.
“I don’t think this is mature enough as an issue. I think we’ve got to go through this hair-on-fire process that’s emanating from the White House,” Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican said. “I’m sure they’re trying to make this as painful as they can for the American people, and I think at some point there will be an opportunity for a bipartisan solution. I’m not sure it will come from a gang I hope it comes from a committee.”