Republicans in Congress never really liked sequestration. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was always quite clear about this: "I don't like the sequester," he said last month. The primary reason that Boehner and other House Republicans didn't like the sequester was that its spending reductions fell heavily on a top GOP priority—defense spending. But the GOP decided to let the sequester take effect anyway, in part because they felt like they had to. After a defeat at the polls in November and a fiscal cliff deal that raised tax rates without cutting spending, the Republican majority in the House needed to show that they had the power to make something happen in a town run by Democrats.
So they let the sequester go through. They needed to. For show, as much as anything else. But the problem, from the GOP's perspective, is that doing so leaves those pesky defense reductions in place.
Which is why House Republicans are now trying to make something else happen: a reversal of some of the sequester's defense spending reductions. On Wednesday, nearly every House Republican voted for a continuing resolution that would provide $982 billion in discretionary funding for the government to stay for the next six months. That keeps spending in line with the sequester's topline figure. But the House CR also quietly restores about $10 billion in funding to the Department of Defense budget.
Was this always the plan? We've seen plenty of warnings that the sequester's reductions wouldn't stick. And former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay, in the midst of a day of meetings with the current GOP about sequestration strategy, openly suggested that the defense reductions "can always be replaced during the appropriations process, after the cuts are put into place." So this doesn't come entirely as a surprise.
This isn't the final legislation, of course. In order for the continuing resolution to pass, the Senate must still pass its own version, and then any conflicts between the two versions must be ironed out. But it hints at a possible Republican game plan going forward: allow defense budget reductions to occur, at least for a bit. And then quietly start the process of attempting to reverse those reductions a little while later.