President Barack Obama and former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew repeatedly lied last year by claiming congressional Republicans were responsible for the looming $85 billion cut in the federal budget through sequestration, according to The Washington Post editor Bob Woodward.
Based on interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved in budget planning, Woodward’s report notes that Obama personally approved Lew’s plan to propose the mandatory trigger to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in July 2011.
A majority of Republicans ultimately voted for the Budget Control Act, which included the sequester.
“The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said during the third presidential debate with Mitt Romney. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”
Woodward noted that Lew echoed the same line while campaigning for the president in Florida in October 2012.
“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said, adding that it “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”
Earlier this month, at his confirmation hearing to be treasury secretary, Lew all but admitted Woodward’s account is correct.
“What I did was said that with all other options closed, we needed to look for an option where we could agree on how to resolve our differences,” Lew told Republican Sen. Richard Burr. “And we went back to the 1984 plan that Senator [Phil] Gramm and Senator [Warren] Rudman worked on, and said that that would be a basis for having a consequence that would be so unacceptable to everyone that we would be able to get action.”
Woodward took Lew’s statement as confirming the aides’ account.
“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,” Woodward said. “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.”
Politely and euphemistically, Woodward called Obama and Lew’s statements “bald-faced message management.”