The sequester has failed. I say that because it was intended as a deterrent, not as something that was ever supposed to go into effect. So because it has gone into effect, it has failed. What should we do now? The answer is simple—not easy, but simple. We have to end this madness, this string of manufactured crises that hamstring the economy and cause enormous amounts of genuine human suffering. Enough is enough. So Congress has to do three things:
1. Repeal the sequester immediately.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, this thing just needs to be repealed, period. Not replaced with some other negotiated deficit reduction package, just repealed. Stop the bleeding, and then you can start negotiating what the government's finances will look like in the coming years. But you can't do it with a gun to all of our heads, so it just needs to be repealed. Now.
2. Pass a continuing resolution to allow the government to continue functioning, and immediately begin negotiations to pass an actual budget.
Continuing resolutions allow the government to keep operating at its current level, without any new negotiations on the budget. Right now we're operating under a CR, and it expires on March 27. At that point, if there isn't a new CR, the government will shut down—not a package of harsh cuts like we're facing now, but a complete shutdown. I'm sure there are some Republicans who would like nothing better than to use that potential shutdown as a new hostage crisis, but that's insane. Stop it now before it happens.
3. Pass a bill eliminating the debt ceiling entirely, or failing that, instituting the "McConnell plan."
There is simply no reason to have a debt ceiling. It doesn't keep us from acquiring debt, it simply requires an extra vote to pay for the spending Congress has already authorized. And in this era of Republican extremism, it gives the most reckless members of Congress the ability to hold the nation hostage. It needs to go, once and for all. And if they can't muster the courage to eliminate it, they can pass what Mitch McConnell proposed last year, a plan giving the president the authority to raise it, but allowing Congress to disapprove if they want (the president would then veto their disapproval, and a nearly impossible two-thirds majority would be required to override his veto). We'll need to raise the debt ceiling again in May, unless we eliminate it now. Can anyone argue that more debt ceiling crises are a good idea, that they serve America's interests in any way? Of course not. It's time to stop them once and for all.
Once you do these three things, you can start negotiations on the budget. Republicans have their priorities, and Democrats have theirs; there will be lots of disagreement and argument, and in the end the package that gets negotiated will probably be to no one's liking, at least not entirely. But the alternative is disaster.
I'm sure there are many Republicans who understand that, who don't like how the most reckless and cruel members of their party have managed to take control of the nation's fate. They've been afraid to stand up to the extremists, but now is the time for them to show a bit of courage, for the sake of their country. Yes, it might be a bit of a risk for them to vote to pull us back from the ledge. A few might even get primary challenges. But we can't do it without them. The last two years have been madness, and it has to end now.