Now, more than a year later, Republicans are fond of saying that the idea itself originated at the White House.
That skips lightly over the fact that their own votes helped enact it into law.
Also that they decided a month ago that it marked the moment of most leverage in their struggle to maneuver Obama and Democrats into curtailing benefit programs. To accomplish that objective, they already have raised the debt limit without winning any cuts in exchange, a step they once vowed not to take. And within two weeks, they are likely to launch legislation making sure the government operates without interruption when current funding authority runs out for most agencies on March 27.
Republicans aren't the only ones partial to verbal sleights of hand.
In a letter to lawmakers earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sounded a series of alarms. The spending cuts "could compromise" the health of more than 373,000 mentally ill or emotionally disturbed individuals, "could slow efforts to improve" health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives, she wrote, and admissions to inpatient addiction facilities "could be reduced."
Could or could not. Soon or later. Nothing pinned down.
The administration hopes to win over the public and bring Republican lawmakers to heel, and it dispatched Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the White House briefing room on Friday.
"Come to the table and start talking" to find a way to avert the cuts, the former GOP lawmaker urged members of his own Republican Party.
Peppered with skeptical questions, LaHood directed reporters to his department's website, with a listing of more than 300 air traffic facilities where overnight shifts could be eliminated or perhaps closed entirely.
Asked if his office was receiving unhappy calls from the public, he got to the political point.
"My phones will ring from members of Congress (asking) 'why is my control tower being closed?'" he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Espo is AP's chief congressional correspondent.