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Despite Votes Today, Sequester Deadlines Will Come and Go

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke this week about the GOP agenda and the economic impact of sequestration as fellow Republicans Sen. John Barrasso, left, Sen. Jerry Moran, and Sen. Roy Blunt listen. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Maybe they forgot February only has 28 days?

President Obama and congressional leaders will huddle at the White House on Friday, after automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending will have already kicked in, in a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a more tenable solution to the sequester battle.

The president is expected again to press GOP lawmakers to embrace his call for replacing some of the reductions by raising additional revenues through closing tax loopholes and ending certain tax breaks.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that the president’s proposed solution to avert the sequester “demonstrates a willingness to compromise.”

Carney added: “What we haven’t seen, when we hear Republican leaders adamantly refuse to consider revenue as part of deficit reduction, is anything like that same spirit of compromise or seriousness of purpose that I think you’ve seen demonstrated by the President and Democratic leaders.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the meeting was an opportunity for Republicans to make clear to the president that the focus must be on reducing spending.

“With a $16.6 trillion national debt, and a promise to the American people to address it, one thing is perfectly clear: we will cut Washington spending,” McConnell said in a statement. “We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the president’s way with across-the-board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.”

But before the top four leaders on Capitol Hill make the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue, Senate lawmakers first will vote Thursday afternoon on competing Republican and Democratic plans to address the sequester.

Politico’s David Rogers reports that neither side appears to have the votes necessary to move forward with their respective plans, and notes that divisions among Senate Republicans could prevent the party’s alternative from gaining even a simple majority:

Nonetheless, fearful of the fallout from the cuts, the GOP leadership pushed ahead Wednesday with its controversial plan to cede broad authority to the White House for the remainder of this fiscal year to implement the $85.3 billion in reductions.

The final 10-page bill, released Wednesday evening, would require Obama to come back to Congress by March 15 with his own plan to achieve the same level of cuts, rather than the across-the-board sequester. Lawmakers could yet overrule the president’s plan, but that would require two-thirds majorities in both houses — a very unlikely event.

“Right now we’re Lizzie Borden’s ax,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the newspaper. “I want them to use a scalpel and come back and explain what they cut.”

The Democratic alternative would delay the cuts for 10 months by replacing the sequester with a package of targeted reductions and revenue increases. With no signs of an agreement in the offing, both the House and the Senate plan to adjourn for the weekend beginning Thursday.

As the nation careens toward the cuts, it’s all politics.

In a speech Wednesday evening to the Business Council in Washington, Mr. Obama stressed that what he had “been calling for repeatedly over the last not just several months, but several years — is a balanced approach.” The White House said that plan “to build on the over 2.5 trillion dollars in deficit reduction he has already signed into law to reduce the deficit by over 4 trillion dollars” is something economists like. He put the onus — again — on Republicans and said they weren’t willing to compromise.

Republicans, meanwhile, were gloating about this Washington Post report suggesting that some administration warnings, such as impending pink slips for teachers, were “hyped.”

Amid the back-and-forth with congressional Republicans, the White House also found itself engaged in an ongoing debate with Washington Post reporter and author Bob Woodward about his reporting on the sequester.

Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei sat down with Woodward to discuss his emergence in the news. The story comes as Woodward said on CNN that a “very senior person” at the White House warned him “you will regret” writing stories about the sequester debate. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith reported Wednesday that Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling is the official who made the remark.


PBS NewsHour on Wednesday took a broad look at Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as the Supreme Court considered a challenge to the provision of the landmark law.

We set the scene with the rallies and impassioned calls to protect the Voting Rights Act outside the courtroom, and as the National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle explained to Jeffrey Brown, the justices were feisty and gave some clear indications of their leanings during arguments inside the courtroom Wednesday.

Former President Clinton told Think Progress the act is “one of the most powerful tools Americans have to fight injustice, and its protection is fundamental to our democracy.”

Judy Woodruff fielded a spirited debate with Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation and Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. (Yes, she’s Gwen’s cousin.) Each outlined what they think of Section 5.

Watch the segments here and here or below:

We’ve also been showcasing the Voting Rights Act’s place in history by collecting stories from our viewers and readers. The first results of the project created by politics Reporter-Producer Katelyn Polantz and Social Media Editor Colleen Shalby went live Tuesday. It’s a rich tapestry of personal stories, from everyday citizens across the country who witnessed discrimination, or celebrated sweeping change.

Click on the image above to listen to the stories, or visit our special Voting Rights Act page here. Christina explained the project in a piece on the NewsHour Tuesday here.

The Orlando Sentinel highlighted a local man from our project.

You can still share your memories. Use the button below, or call (703) 594-6PBS to tell us your story.


Just down the street from the court, the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding its first hearing on the proposed renewal of the Assault Weapons ban. It was an emotional day, as lawmakers heard a tearful plea from the father of a child slain in Newtown, Connecticut.

Ray Suarez looked at the day’s political push for gun control in a NewsHour segment Wednesday. Watch that here or below:

Ray pointed out that the Assault Weapons Ban is highly unlikely to pass Congress, but that consensus is emerging on expanding the background check system. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the issue, said as much on Wednesday. Reporter-Producer Cassie M. Chew notes that Goodlatte told reporters that House Republicans will work on their own legislation instead of the president’s package of proposals.

“We are going to take this from the standpoint of what the House is interested in pursuing,” he said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “We are going to be focused on two things. One is improving the background check system and improving the crackdown on illegal sales of firearms.”

The day’s events came as a new Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll showed one in five Americans say they personally know a victim of gun violence and four in 10 say they are at least somewhat worried about being victims of gun violence.

Field & Stream magazine sat down with Vice President Joe Biden in an interview pressing him on the issues of most concern to gun owners.


  • Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols reports that Caroline Kennedy could be the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
  • The House is expected to pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act Thursday. The Hill has more here.
  • The Senate voted 71-26 on Wednesday to confirm Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary.
  • Cassie also reports that on immigration, Goodlatte wants to see the proposals go through the legislative process, rather than a compromise worked out by the White House and the Congressional leadership. “Members need to have the benefit of more information about how the enforcement system works so they will be better informed and not rush to judgment,” he said.
  • Another casualty of sequestration? Military planes for members traveling overseas, Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser reports.
  • Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, has declined to run for Iowa’s open Senate seat, clearing the GOP field for Rep. Steve King, should he decide to run. But conservatives are wary of King’s electability because of what American Crossroads president Steven Law called his “Todd Akin problem.”
  • The Club for Growth is going after Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Joshua Miller explored what a tough slog it could be in 2014 for Democrats to win back the Natural State.
  • Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev writes about a “little-noticed one-page memorandum” that suggests the Obama administration “is seeking new rules to allow federal agencies to fire employees without appeal if their work has some tie to national security, a move that advocates for whistleblowers say may hurt efforts to keep government transparent and free from corruption.”
  • Paul McKinley held the slimmest of leads to become the Republican nominee in a special House election in Chicago. The winner of the primary will face Democratic nominee Robin Kelly, who is strongly favored for the April general election.
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor plans to join Rep. John Lewis for a 3-day pilgrimage through Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Selma, Ala.
  • Loudoun County, Va., is hoping to land the new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters.
  • As “House of Cards” fandom increases, Marin Cogan has a piece in the New Republic looking at how female reporters can be treated in Washington.
  • BuzzFeed found 13 dog pictures to illustrate fears about the sequester. You may hate it, but you know you want to click.
  • Republicans prefer Mexican food, and Democrats prefer Chinese, according to a new survey from Public Policy Polling.
  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA gives you some stats as we approach tax season.


  • In Hari Sreenivasan’s latest Coping with Climate Change report, he looks at how ski resorts are struggling when there’s less snow to work with. And how do you make snow, anyway?
  • Larisa Epatko has a step-by-step guide to how a pope gets elected. The NewsHour will have more Thursday night.
  • Gwen Ifill talked with John Sullivan of San Francisco State University and Micheline Maynard of Forbes about Yahoo’s ban on telecommuting.









Politics desk assistant Simone Pathe and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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