Despite the scheduling of a meeting Friday between the President and congressional leaders, there aren’t a lot of reasons to be optimistic that a deal of any significance can be reached in time to avert the initial impact of the sequester spending cuts.
For one thing, the Washington conventional wisdom now is that nothing will get done of any significance until the annual spending bills expire in a few weeks. Second, both parties on Capitol Hill are divided about both means and ends regarding options to avert the sequester. And, third and most importantly, the tax chasm between the two parties looms especially large right now; House Republicans won’t consent to raise any revenue (at least without the kind of major tax reform that at this point will be done, if it is done at all, through the extended regular order of the committee process), and Democrats are insisting that the offset for scaling back the sequester cuts include a sizable amount of new revenue.
What’s interesting (and against what I and many others, including some Hill leaders, thought) is that the White House has been able to keep their immigration and gun control efforts moving along on parallel tracks, rather than see them stalled by the fiscal fight taking up all the Pennsylvania Avenue bandwidth. The President had a meeting, for instance, on immigration Tuesday with Senators McCain and Graham which seems to have gone quite well. Momentum on the gun issue continues to be largely on the administration’s side. Both issues have a long way to go, but, even as the tax and spending battle rages in stalemate, the President and Vice President Biden continue to press ahead and bipartisan talks continue on Capitol Hill, setting up potentially interesting dynamics in the weeks to come.