Fox Ignores Obama's Long-Standing Offer To Avert Sequestration With Revenue And Cuts

Fox News hosts cited a widely criticized Bob Woodward column to falsely claim President Obama's proposal to avert looming government spending cuts -- known as sequestration -- “moved the goalposts” because it offsets some of the cuts with new revenue. In fact, the administration's proposal to avert the sequestration has always included a balanced deficit reduction plan that included additional revenues.

Woodward Pushes Myth That Revenue Is New To Obama's Proposal To Avert Sequestration

Bob Woodward: When The President Asks For New Revenue, “He Is Moving The Goal Posts.” In a Washington Post opinion piece, Bob Woodward accused the Obama administration of “moving the goal posts” with its proposal to replace the sequester with an alternative plan to reduce the deficit, falsely claiming that they had not asked for additional revenue in previous proposals:

Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester. Reinforcing Lew's point, a senior White House official said Friday, “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation's debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made. [The Washington Post, 2/22/13]

Fox Cites Woodward To Call Obama's Sequestration Replacement Proposal 'Fraudulent'

Steve Doocy: “Bob Woodward Says [Obama] Moved The Goalposts Because He Wants To Go Ahead And Raise Taxes.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the president promised not to raise taxes and cited Bob Woodward to claim Obama has “moved the goalposts” on replacing the sequestration cuts with other deficit reduction measures:

Bob Woodward is taking a little heat from the left and the White House as well because he pointed out in an editorial, writing over the weekend, that this president, while they're not owning up to it right now, this is an idea of the president. And he also talks about how the president and his team are moving the goalposts. In the original deal what they said was, the president wanted to kick the debt ceiling down the road, you know, past the election. In return, the president promised, “I won't raise taxes.” Well now Bob Woodward says he's moved the goalposts because he wants to go ahead and raise taxes. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/26/13]

O'Reilly Claims Obama Is Defrauding Republicans By Including Tax Increases. On his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly responded to senior political analyst Brit Hume, who noted that Woodward might not have evidence for his claims, by insisting that Obama had committed fraud by asking for increased revenue in any proposal to avert the sequestration:

If the initial policy was passed to solely cut spending, and then you introduce a tax rise on top of one you just got, that's fraud in the inducement... Alright, the inducement was we'll pass this, so that we can come together, and if we don't, the cuts will sink in. But now, here's a new element into it, that Republicans are certainly not going to go along with, because they didn't want to go along with the tax increase in the first place, which they finally did. And they're going, 'hey, you're not negotiating in good faith.' [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/25/13]

Chris Wallace Cites Woodward To Claim White House Accepted That Sequestration Substitute “Would Be All Spending Cuts, Not Tax Increases.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace quoted Woodward's post, claiming the White House ultimately concluded that a sequestration substitute “would be all spending cuts, not tax increases”:

Woodward has a piece in today's Washington Post, he, of course, is the guy who wrote the book on the budget battles in 2011. He says, not only was it the White House that came up with the idea of the sequester, but they also accepted the idea that the sequester would be all spending cuts, not tax increases. Let's put up what Woodward writes today, “So when the president asked that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts, but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts .... That was not the deal he made.” [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 2/24/13]

But Obama's Proposal To Avert Sequestration Has Included Additional Revenue From The Beginning

White House: “President Will Demand That The Committee Pursue A Balanced Deficit Reduction Package ... With Revenue-Raising Tax Reform.” A 2011 fact sheet produced by the White House after an agreement to reduce deficits was first reached in mid-2011 described how the sequestration was intended as an “enforcement mechanism” to ensure deficit reduction of $1.2 trillion in the event that Congress failed to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit by at least an equivalent amount. The fact sheet makes clear that the president was committed to reducing the deficit in part by generating additional revenue. From the fact sheet's section on the debt deal's mechanics:

Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties - Republican and Democrat - to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 - split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts.


The Deal Sets the Stage for Balanced Deficit Reduction, Consistent with the President's Values: The deal is designed to achieve balanced deficit reduction, consistent with the values the President articulated in his April Fiscal Framework. The discretionary savings are spread between both domestic and defense spending. And the President will demand that the Committee pursue a balanced deficit reduction package, where any entitlement reforms are coupled with revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice. [, via Business Insider, 7/31/11]

TPM's Brian Beutler: Law That Created Sequestration “Unambiguously” Allows Revenue In Sequestration Replacement. Talking Points Memo's senior congressional reporter Brian Beutler explained how Woodward “is just dead wrong” that Obama is moving the goal posts by calling for revenue in any deal to avert the sequestration:

Obama and Democrats have always insisted that a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher taxes replace sequestration. It's true that John Boehner wouldn't agree to include new taxes in the enforcement mechanism itself, and thus that the enforcement mechanism he and Obama settled upon -- sequestration -- is composed exclusively of spending cuts. But the entire purpose of an enforcement mechanism is to make sure that the enforcement mechanism is never triggered. The key question is what action it was designed to compel. And on that score, the Budget Control Act is unambiguous.

First: “Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section 251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct spending shall be reduced.”

Key words: “deficit reduction.” Not “spending cuts.” If Republicans wanted to make sure sequestration would be replaced with spending cuts only, that would have been the place to make a stand. Some of them certainly tried. But that's not what ultimately won the day. Instead the, law tasked the Super Committee with replacing sequestration with a different deficit reduction bill -- tax increases or no.

“The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021,” according to the BCA. The bill even provided the House and Senate instructions for advancing a Super Committee bill if it included revenue. This couldn't be clearer. [Talking Points Memo, 2/23/13]

Wash. Post's Ezra Klein: "Everyone Was Perfectly Clear That Democrats Were Going To Pursue Tax Increases In Any Sequester Replacement." Ezra Klein wrote at The Washington Post's Wonkblog that he didn't agree with Woodward that the administration moved the goalposts and that he remembered, in 2011, that “everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement”:

I don't agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win. [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 2/23/13]

Slate's David Weigel: Woodward Contradicts His Own Book. Slate's David Weigel noted that Woodward's column contradicted Woodward's book that described early deals between the White House and Republicans including “a mixture of cuts and spending increases”:

This is just a highly redacted reintrepretation of the long, long negotiations. And it doesn't even appear this way in Woodward's book, The Price of Politics. Early (but shadowy) versions of deals between the White House and Republicans included a mixture of cuts and spending increases. At one point, the negotiators seemed to agree on $800 billion of new revenue from tax increases.


To argue that the White House is “moving the goal posts” when it now asks for revenue in a sequestration replacement, you have to toss out the fact that the White House always wanted revenue in the supercommittee's sequestration replacement. This isn't confusing unless reporters make it confusing. [Slate, 2/23/13, emphasis in the original]