Dumb. Arbitrary. Inexcusable: Washington in 3 Words

IN THE NEWS: No deal on sequester … Obama would keep cuts to avoid government shutdown … Actual Americans who like Congress … Senators not in fighting mood for CIA Director confirmation … House to hold hearings on threats from space


Washington in 3 Words: ‘Dumb,’ ‘Arbitrary,’ and ‘Inexcusable’

Months ago, Congress and the White House imposed a deadline for reaching a budget deal or risk automatically cut $1.2 trillion in a manner that President Obama called “dumb,” “arbitrary,” and “inexcusable.”

The deadline expired today without a single serious meeting between the president and House Speaker John Boehner. All they could do is blame one another, and start positioning themselves for the next fights — over a continuing resolution at the end of March and the debt limit in May.

It was a pathetic display of leadership all around. Obama rushed to the White House briefing room to chastise Republicans and — almost in passing — condemned the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government. “This is not a win for anybody,” he said. “This is a loss for America.” Read more

Ron Fournier


NO DEAL ON SEQUESTER. President Obama and congressional Republicans dug in on their positions and left little room for compromise, despite their last-minute meeting as the sequester takes hold today, ABC News reports. House Speaker John Boehner reiterated his stance that a tax hike had already been instituted. “The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over,” he said. “It’s about taking on the spending problem here in Washington.” For his part, Obama said he could not force Congress to do anything, while also acknowledging that the cuts are “not going to precipitate the crisis” that other fiscal battles might have. Read more

  • “I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press. AP goes on to clarify: “The Jedi reference comes from Star Wars, and the mind meld from Star Trek.” Read more

OBAMA MIGHT ALLOW CUTS TO STAND TO AVOID GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. In a press conference Friday, President Obama suggested he wanted to avoid a government shutdown later in March, even if it means keeping the sequester cuts in place for months, according to The New York Times. For his part, Boehner said that a continuing resolution to fund the government will be passed by his chamber next week.Read more

  • Slate’s Dave Weigel notes that the continuing resolution could affect the sequester. The two sides “could write it in a way that hits the new, lower spending limits, but funds the programs they like,” giving the president the authority to move cuts around.

HOW THE SEQUESTER MIGHT PLAY OUT. If lawmakers determine the across-the-board cuts can’t stick, the next question for both sides to grapple with is whether to try to make them more manageable, substitute them for other cuts, let them stand, or push them off. National Journal’s Stacy Kaper games out the possibilities for the sequester’s aftermath with five different scenarios. Read more

WHO BIRTHED THE SEQUESTER? To hear Republicans tell it, the White House all but single-handedly spawned the huge across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs, the enforcement “trigger” of the summer 2011 debt-ceiling deal. But is there really any “Rosebud” moment to be recollected from that year's agonizing fiscal negotiations to illustrate that Obama or any other individual, or party, was solely responsible for conceiving this idea? National Journal’s Billy House writes it’s more complicated than “Obamaquester.” Read more

HERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY LIKE CONGRESS. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll gave Congress a 12 percent approval rating, up just a hair from its all-time low. So who are the 12 percent who approve of Congress? “Several backtracked or qualified their support when asked to describe what they found so appealing about the institution,” The Times reported. “The words ‘idiots’ and ‘ninnies’ came up. One respondent described his positive response as accidental. Another mentioned she had been recovering from a recent surgery.” Overall, the responses generally fell into two camps: “natural optimists” and “Obama haters.” Read more

HOUSE TO HOLD HEARING ON ‘THREATS FROM SPACE.’ After a meteor rained rock fragments over Siberia and a huge asteroid passed just 17,000 miles from Earth last month, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has scheduled a hearing next Wednesday on “Threats from Space,” The Hill reports. “We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids and develop contingencies, if needed, to change the course of an asteroid headed toward Earth,” said Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. Read more

ROMNEY ON GETTING OFF ‘ROLLER COASTER’ OF CAMPAIGN. In excerpts released from a forthcoming Fox News interview, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks about unplugging from the daily jolt of the campaign trail. “We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs,” he explains. “But the ride ends. And then you get off. And it’s not like, ‘Oh, can’t we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It’s like, no, the ride’s over.’ ” Read more

GOP SENATORS NOT IN FIGHTING MOOD ON BRENNAN CONFIRMATION. After a bruising confirmation process for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel,Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa tell The Hill that the party has little interest in putting up a fight over John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA. “I think everyone feels Brennan is qualified, they may not like him, but he is qualified,” Grassley said. The Senate Intelligence committee is scheduled to vote on Brennan’s nomination early next week. Read more


“I am not a dictator, I’m the president.” — President Obama, when asked why he couldn’t lock Congress in a room and come to an agreement. (CNN)


BILL MCKIBBEN: AMERICA’S ‘PROFESSIONAL BUMMER-OUTER.’ Bill McKibben, the unexpected leader of a global push back against climate change, describes himself as America’s leading “professional bummer-outer.” And now, with carbon particles in the earth’s atmosphere blowing past a critical 350 parts per million benchmark 43 years ahead of schedule, he believes it’s too late for small changes. Opponents call him a “purveyor of fear.” Even some environmentalists have criticized his intense focus on stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. But they can’t disassociate with McKibben, who recently convinced roughly 40,000 people to show up for a rally at the White House against the pipeline project, as Karl Taro Greenfeld writes in Bloomberg Businessweek. Read more


WHY DID THESE REPUBLICANS VOTE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT? The House on Thursday approved a bipartisan Senate bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in a 286-138 vote, and National Journal’s Scott Bland notes that every single voting House Republican from a district that President Obama won in November — 15 in all —supported the bill (Rep. Gary Miller of California was absent), while nearly two-thirds of the Republican conference voted no. GOP Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Peter King of New York, who represent the two districts Romney won most narrowly, also voted for the VAWA reauthorization. See the full list.


SEQUESTER ARGUMENTS CONTINUE ON TV. This week’s Sunday shows may offer some cringe-inducing moments, as some of the largest players in the debate over sequestration—including Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, NEC Director Gene Sperling and author Bob Woodward — offer what could shape up to be closing arguments. Here’s the schedule:

NBC’s Meet the Press hosts House Speaker John Boehner and NEC Director Gene Sperling.

CBS’s Face the Nation hosts Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan; and The Washington Post's Bob Woodward.

ABC’s This Week hosts Sperling; Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, R-Utah.

Fox News Sunday hosts former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann Romney.

CNN’s State of the Union hosts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sperling; Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Bloomberg’s Capitol Gains hosts Defense Undersecretary Robert Hale.

C-SPAN’s Newsmakers features Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

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