The person who deserves the most blame for the sequester -- the automatic spending cuts that kick in March 1 and will slow GDP growth by 0.5 percent -- is not President Obama or John Boehner, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. That's not just because the Virginia Republican wanted to delay a big deficit bill until after the election, when he thought he'd be working with President-elect Mitt Romney, but because Cantor can't decide whether the best course for his own career is to side with Boehner and more moderate Republicans or with the Tea Party radicals. The careening of his thinking on the question is the backbeat of one fiscal crisis after another, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reports.
Cantor comes across as very ambitious in Lizza's profile -- his staff even say he could be president someday. But Cantor doesn't seem to know how to achieve his career goals. He can't decide whether to help Boehner negotiate with the White House to pass actual legislation or to undercut Boehner to get conservatives' support. In the summer of 2011, Boehner had been negotiating with Obama on a grand bargain to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit. Cantor helped kill it.
Until late June, Boehner had managed to keep these talks secret from Cantor. On July 21st, Boehner paused in his discussions with Obama to talk to Cantor and outline the proposed deal. As Obama waited by the phone for a response from the Speaker, Cantor struck. Cantor told me that it was a “fair assessment” that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama’s deal...
[B]y scuttling the 2011 Grand Bargain negotiations, Cantor, more than any other politician, helped create the series of fiscal crises that have gripped Washington since Election Day.
From the ashes of the grand bargain rose the sequester. It was not a beautiful phoenix but a horrible monster.