The real question is whether Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and the rest of the nominally sane leadership are willing to bite the very wealthy defense contractor hand that feeds them. If the President and the Democrats were willing to do the same — as well as risk being tarred as unpatriotic and hating the troops — they could put these folks in a very uncomfortable position and force Boehner to break the Hastert rule again and pass something with mostly Democratic votes. (This time he really could be putting his speakership at risk, but it’s not as if he wouldn’t be well taken care of.)
If there’s a weak link in that scenario, I’m afraid it’s the Democrats who I think are unlikely to push this far enough to force a repeal of the sequester, which is really the only way out. Moreover, I’m not sure the administration really wants that. They still seem to think it’s important to be seen as raging deficit hawks. But it really is the only sane answer to this problem. The sequester was a delaying tactic to get both parties out of a logjam and through the election. They need to end the fiction and move along. After all it’s not as if they can’t play this game again if they choose — there’s always a budget, debt ceiling, appropriations etc they can take to the brink and I’m going to guess that until this economy improves and/or the Republicans purge themselves of their lunacy, that’s exactly how it’s going to go.
The Democrats need to stop thinking they can reach some perfect deal that will allow them to “put it behind them” so they can focus on other issues. It’s just not going to happen any time soon. This is the fundamental political fight of our time. Whatever bipartisan consensus ever existed is gone and we are engaged in an intense battle about the role of the federal government in American life. They need to win one campaign at a time and prepare for the next one. It’s going to be a slog.