Just words?

In a Friday phone call to the co-chairmen of the 12-member panel, Obama told Congress it “must not shirk its responsibilities,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

“The sequester was agreed to by both parties to ensure there was a meaningful enforcement mechanism to force a result from the committee,” the readout from the White House said. “The American people deserve to have their leaders come together and make the tough choices necessary to live within our means, just as American families do every day in these tough economic times.”…

Credit rating agencies have said that while a supercommittee failure would not automatically mean another downgrade of the U.S. rating, failure combined with a cancellation of the triggers would be viewed very negatively

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that he feels “bound” by the triggers and opposes removing them.

What’s his game here? Just yesterday, his own secretary of defense said letting the automatic cuts happen would be a catastrophic demonstration of “poor leadership,” turning the force into a “paper tiger” and inviting aggression abroad. Is The One seriously threatening to block a bill that would lift those cuts in the event of a Super Committee deadlock, knowing full well that the GOP will use Panetta’s soundbite to destroy him for it next year? Remember: This guy does not take political risks, and he certainly doesn’t take them in the name of cutting spending. Could be that the fear of another downgrade is weighing on him if the triggers are rescinded, which will pose a threat to his reelection if the market reacts badly, but what are the odds that investors will flee the safety of Treasuries under any circumstance given the chaos in Europe? This has to be kabuki with an eye to one of two outcomes. Either he’ll grudgingly sign the bill anyway, no doubt after a short presser in which he deigns to lecture Congress on — ahem — the dangers of ahem giant deficits, or he’s already counted the votes and thinks there’ll be two-thirds in each chamber in favor. In that case, he can veto it and claim credit as a (giggle) deficit hawk, secure in the knowledge that the veto will be overridden and defense will get its money. Or maybe he’s serious and has some ideas for how to raise money for defense that’ll offset the cuts? There is, in fact, a very wealthy market abroad with spiking demand for one of our core products. Arm the Sunnis.

Newsweek cites a Democratic leadership aide as saying the odds of a Super Committee deal have sunk to 30-35 percent. Sounds high to me given how splinter groups have begun to form in desperation to try to pressure the Committee into a deal. The same Newsweek piece reports on a bipartisan “gang of six” within the Committee itself comprised of Republicans Rob Portman, Dave Camp, and Fred Upton and Democrats John Kerry, Max Baucus, and Chris Van Hollen. If they can reach a compromise, they need to convince only one member of the remaining six on the Committee in order to approve the package and send it to Congress. Meanwhile, Fox News claims that representatives from the House group that signed that letter last week urging the Committee to keep all options on the table will hold its own presser on Tuesday to plead for a grand bargain. They want a $4 trillion deal, but there’s no way you’re going to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on a revenue number for that, so this is basically just PR to remind the public that certain members of the two parties can, kinda sorta, still agree very broadly on priorities. Exit question: How low will Congress’s approval go if the Committee deadlocks? We’re at nine percent already. Do I hear five?