Jonathan Chait thinks Speaker Boehner is bluffing on allowing the sequestration to take place.
Boehner doesn’t want that. He wants to replace the automatic cuts with cuts to retirement programs and zero new revenue. Now, Obama almost surely would never accept that. So the leverage game here centers on which party finds the automatic cuts more painful.
Boehner is asserting that Republicans don’t actually care that much about cutting defense — that replacing the sequester is something Democrats want. Just because Boehner says this doesn’t make it true. He may be holding his defense hawks in line publicly, but the question is whether he can keep them in line as the negotiations proceed and the prospect of implementing the cuts grows more real.