The big headlines out of the House Republican retreat in Williamsburg, Va., today are that the conference is moving toward a small debt limit increase that would give the Treasury Department about three more months worth of borrowing authority.

Other media outlets are calling this move a retreat, and a tactical retreat it is. House Leadership has not given up on the idea of using the debt limit as leverage to force a debate about unsustainable federal spending though. They just want to get their ducks in a row before they begin negotiating in earnest with President Obama. An extra three months will allow the House time  to pass fundamental entitlement reform through regular order, perhaps even including a Balanced Budget Amendment.

But those three months will also allow the $1.2 trillion sequester to begin to take effect in March. Previously many in the GOP had sworn not to let the defense half of the sequester to happen. But after the fiscal cliff fight many more Republicans are eager to see some real spending cuts actually happen, even if it means defense gets hit too.

This reality has already been accepted by many in the conservative defense hawk community. American Enterprise Institute defense expert Mackenzie Eaglen recently told Human Events,”At the end of the day, there aren’t going to be any more acceptable alternative spending cuts to replace the sequester, or more tax increases. We know some type of sequestration’s going to happen for defense, because there is nowhere else to go. The continuous punting is not a solution.”

Eaglen’s sentiment is being echoed by senior Republican leadership staff in both chambers of Congress. A Senior Senate Republican aide tells The Washington Examiner, “Congressional Republicans have voted twice to replace the sequester with alternative spending reductions from elsewhere in the federal budget. Unless the president comes up with a plan to replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts, the sequester will likely be implemented and it’ll be on President Obama’s watch.”

A House Republican Leadership Aide added, “Without cuts to replace it, the sequester will happen. It’s not the best possible pathway but we cannot increase spending. The House has twice passed a bill to responsibly replace the sequester by cutting wasteful spending. The longer the President says he is not willing to help solve our spending problem, the odds of sequester happening get higher.”

Obama has made it clear that any bill changing the sequester must include tax hikes. Unless he completely caves on that demand, the sequester is going to happen.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: Left takes aim at corporate political activity
Phil Klein: America shouldn’t wait for markets to demand deficit reduction
Byron York: Battered GOP tries to find strength in weakness
Tim Carney: Obama appoints non-registered Google lobbyist to National Science Board

In Other News
The New York Times, Algerian Troops Attack Site to End Hostage Standoff: Without warning other governments, Algeria mounted an assault on Thursday on the heavily armed fighters holding American and other hostages at a remote Sahara gas field facility, freeing captives and killing kidnappers but leaving some hostages dead and foreign leaders scrambling to find out the fates of their citizens.
MSNBC, Public lowers expectations heading into Obama’s 2nd term: As President Barack Obama is set to begin his second term next week, he finds himself with a job-approval rating above 50 percent and with majorities supporting his general direction on gun control and immigration, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. But he also confronts an American public holding mixed attitudes about the next four years, concerns about the economy and a belief that tougher times lie ahead.
Politico, The looming Democratic divide: As soon as the echo of Obama’s inaugural address fades and he becomes a lame duck, Democrats are going to have to face a central and unresolved question about their political identity: Will they become a center-left, Democratic Leadership Council-by-a-different-name party or return to a populist, left-leaning approach that mirrors their electoral coalition?
McClatchy Newspapers, Biden urges mayors to help sell Obama gun plan: Vice President Joe Biden looked to the nation’s mayors Thursday to help rally public opinion in support of the Obama administration’s push for new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.

Righty Playbook
Mickey Kaus takes Ezra Klein to task for always being wrong about health care costs.
Robert Costa and Andrew Stiles have Ten Takeaways from the GOP Retreat.
Keith Hennessey on How to Wage the Debt-Ceiling Fight

Lefty Playbook
The Huffington Post is reporting Obama is planning to launch a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds from low- and some middle-income families.
Ezra Klein maps out how “most” of Obama’s gun control proposal could become law.
Kevin Drum on why Obamacare passed and cap and trade failed.