Gridlock: No budging at the budget-cuts deadline

President Obama signs order enacting cuts.
Associated Press
Mar 2, 2013

 

Gridlocked once more, President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders refused to budge in their budget standoff Friday as $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts bore down on individual Americans and the nation's still-recovering economy. "None of this is necessary," said the president after a sterile White House meeting that portended a long standoff.

Obama formally enacted the reductions a few hours before the midnight deadline required by law. Yet their impact had been felt thousands of miles away well before then. In Seattle, the King County Housing Authority announced it had stopped issuing housing vouchers under a federal program that benefits "elderly or disabled households, veterans, and families with children."

The president met with top lawmakers for less than an hour at the White House, then sought repeatedly to fix the blame on Republicans for the broad spending reductions and any damage that they inflict. "They've allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit," he said, renewing his demand for a comprehensive deficit-cutting deal that includes higher taxes.

Republicans said they wanted deficit cuts, too, but not tax increases. "The president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters, a reference to a $600 billion increase on higher wage earners that cleared Congress on the first day of the year. Now, he said after the meeting, it is time take on "the spending problem here in Washington."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was equally emphatic. " I will not be part of any back-room deal, and I will absolutely not agree to increase taxes," he vowed in a written statement.

At the same time they clashed, Obama and Republicans appeared determined to contain their disagreement.

Boehner said the House will pass legislation next week to extend routine funding for government agencies beyond the current March 27 expiration. "I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time," he said, referring to the new cuts by their Washington-speak name.

Obama said he, too, wanted to keep the two issues separate.

Under the law, Obama had until midnight to formally order the cuts. Barring a quick deal in the next week or so to call them off, the impact eventually is likely to be felt in all reaches of the country.

The Pentagon will absorb half of the $85 billion required to be sliced between now and the end of the budget year on Sept 30, exposing civilian workers to furloughs and defense contractors to possible cancellations. Said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, only a few days on the job: "We will continue to ensure America's security" despite the challenge posed by an "unnecessary budget crisis."

The administration also has warned of long lines at airports as security personnel are furloughed, of teacher layoffs in some classrooms and adverse impacts on maintenance at the nation's parks.

The announcement by the housing agency in Seattle was an early indication of what is likely to hit as the cuts take effect. It said it was taking the action "to cope with the impending reduction in federal funding," adding that it normally issues 45 to 50 vouchers per month.

After days of dire warnings by administration officials, the president told reporters the effects of the cuts would be felt only gradually.

"The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage to our economy — a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day," he said. Much of the budget savings will come through unpaid furloughs for government workers, and those won't begin taking effect until next month.

Obama declined to say if he bore any of the responsibility for the coming cuts, and expressed bemusement at any suggestion he had the ability to force Republicans to agree with him.

"I am not a dictator. I'm the president," he said. "So, ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the doorway, right?" He also declared he couldn't perform a "Jedi mind meld" to sway opponents, mixing Star Wars and Star Trek as he reached for a science fiction metaphor.

Neither the president nor Republicans claimed to like what was about to happen. Obama called the cuts "dumb," and GOP lawmakers have long said they were his idea in the first place.

Ironically, they derive from a budget dispute they were supposed to help resolve back in the fall of 2011. At the time, a congressional Supercommittee was charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over a decade as part of an attempt to avoid a first-ever government default. The president and Republicans agreed to create a fallback of that much in across-the-board cuts, designed to be so unpalatable that it would virtually assure the panel struck a deal.

The Supercommittee dissolved in disagreement, though. And while Obama and Republicans agreed to a two-month delay last January, there was no bipartisan negotiation in recent days to prevent the first installment of the cuts from taking effect.

It isn't clear how long they will last.

Of particular concern to lawmakers in both parties is a lack of flexibility in the allocation of cuts due to take effect over the next few months. That problem will ease beginning with the new budget year on Oct. 1, when Congress and the White House will be able to negotiate changes in the way the reductions are made.

For his part, Obama suggested he was content to leave them in place until Republicans change their minds about raising taxes by closing loopholes.

"If Congress comes to its senses a week from now, a month from now, three months from now, then there's a lot of open running room there for us to grow our economy much more quickly and to advance the agenda of the American people dramatically," he said.

"So this is a temporary stop on what I believe is the long-term, outstanding prospect for American growth and greatness."

But Republicans say they are on solid political ground. At a retreat in January in Williamsburg, Va., GOP House members reversed course and decided to approve a debt limit increase without demanding cuts. They also agreed not to provoke a government shutdown, another traditional pressure point, as leverage to force Obama and Democrats to accept savings in benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Obama has said repeatedly he's willing to include benefit programs in deficit-cutting legislation — as long as more tax revenue is part of the deal.

"I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things," he said at the White House on Friday.

Republicans speak dismissively of such pledges, saying that in earlier negotiations, the president has never been willing to close a deal with the type of changes he often says he will accept.

___

Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Andrew Taylor, Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville in Washington and Manuel Valdes in Seattle contributed to this report.

 

Comments

thinkagain

"I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things," he said at the White House on Friday.

He’s a pathological liar. What I don’t understand, is how the PresiDEBT still has so many Obamabots buffaloed even after all this time.

coasterfan

Really? Obama offered $2 in cuts for every $1 in increased funding. This is what is known as. "more than meeting your opponents halfway", yet Intransigent Republican congressmen refuse to budge. And let's be clear: it's the republican congressmen, not their constituents, who are the problem. Polls show that a majority of the Republican citizenry are in favor of Obama's balanced approach of cuts + increased taxes. Obama has a near 60 % approval rating because a majority of Americans understand that his plan is far better than anything conservatives have offered.

Swamp Fox

When was the last time the Democratic controlled Senate vote on a budget bill?

Contango

coasterfan writes:

"Obama has a near 60 % approval rating,"

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." - H.L. Mencken

Not-to-worry, the country's journey over the edge and into the fiscal canyon has been merely postponed by a couple of inches.

FORWARD SOVIET!

goofus

What poll does your approval rating come from. The Coasterfan Hope poll? I've seen entirely different polls!!!

JD's picture
JD

Every time the Dems offer such a deal thay spend the money but the reductions never happen. So if I were offered that deal I to would be gun shy as well. The reduction is 44 bil. this year and the rest next year. What I dont get is how this is a limit or a reduction of the increase for next year. What I am sayin is they will still spend more next year than this year by about 5%. I sure would like it get a 5% more in my pay but I wont that dont mean I will loose anything.

goofus

Coaster must have got his 60% approval rating from Coastermedia, Gallup has Obozo's approval rating at 47% with a disapproval rating of 45%.

anthras

the taxes for the top 1% were just increased and starting 2013 a $655billion Obamacare tax was implemented also the ss payroll tax has increased and awhile back the cbo advised that Obamacare will cost an additional $1.930 trillion over the next 10 years and will still leave 30 million uninsured.Please name just 1 spending cut Obama has offered We can't seem to cut spending now and yet this administration is allowing more illegals to cross the border and yes I did use the term illegal in lieu of undocumented

Swamp Fox

Classic Obama, this entire procedure was his idea, now he stated he didn't want it. The procedure isn't really current cuts, if you boss told you he was giving you a $2000 raise next year but later told you he only could give you $1000, has you salary really been cut, no you never had the additional money, how would that affect your present standard of living, it wouldn't this was all new additional salary. The feds are doing the same thing, reducing increased future spending. Obama more concerned with his never ending campaign mode that ever reducing the debt. If each federal department decreased their spending 1.2% across the board this "crisis" would have been avoided, do you really think there isn't at least 1.2% of waste in each department? When you get elected by the increasing the nanny state, why would you cut spending?

coasterfan

The sequester is something that Obama suggested, as impetus for the do- nothing congress to actually solve the problem. All sides embraced the idea, but no one wanted it to actually happen. And it wouldn't have, if Republican congressmen had any idea as to how/why to compromise.

Contango

coastefan writes:

"The sequester is something that Obama suggested,"

"Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/op...

Pterocarya frax...

Huh? Isn't that what coasterfan already said? And hear is the official vote on the bill, so you can see how 174 Republicans voted for it.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/...

Contango

@ Pterocarya frax...:

Isn't "approved" a bit stronger wording than "suggested?"

Obviously the idea came from the Obama Admin. and EVERYONE agreed to it. Problem?

So the Repubs helped to give him what he asked for, but that it was something that he REALLY didn't want? lol

Did you read Mr. Woodward's piece? He is left of center you know.

rickross2

Dear Obama......maybe if you wouldn't take the money that hard-working people pay in for their taxes and give it to people who won't work or work very little. This system is a GD joke!

rickross2

I know this was going well before Obama......but he has the power to change it!

BULLISDEEP's picture
BULLISDEEP

Here is your latest gov update of funding 2005 . That's the US gov for you.

http://funding-programs.idilogic...

If someone can find 2011,2012 post it.

https://www.cfda.gov/

Dinghy Gal

Can we have a special election?

real talk

This is 100% on the republicans. They refuse to do anything sensible. Let people lose jobs so they don't raise 1 penny of taxes on the wealthy. Let everything be cut, people all over lose jobs, businesses close, teachers cut, etc etc so they can protect their daddies.

For you Obama haters. This sequestration stupidity was passed and forced on everyone by the congress. The idea of it was to make cuts that were so severe as to force congress to actually do their job. Republicans have blocked the ability of congress to do their jobs for the last several years. You want to point fingers you need to point them at the righties in congress

mikel

Really? The sequester was Obama's suggestion in 2011. He spends 1 hour in negotiations on Friday yet had the ability to spend one a day playing golf with tiger woods or his caddy? I guess we know where his priority is!

real talk

Boehner sent the house members home on Thursday so they couldn't make any deals on Friday to stop the sequester. Check your info

mikel

Here's the info real talk. What proposal did Obama make since January 1?? NONE! Yet, he had time to cross the country to talk to different interest groups, governors and factory workers and even play golf. But did NOT make time for those who actually makes the decisions. So, check your info.

bored reader

He spent his time out campaigning instead of staying at the WH to work on an agreement. He's more comfy out spending more money the gub'ment doesn't have to tell people all over the country it's not his fault.

goofus

Well done DNC bot, we now know the official liberal stance

coasterfan

Real Talk is 100% correct. I looked up the word "intransigent" in the dictionary this morning, and was surprised to see a picture of the Republican/Tea Party congress.

The GOP has gone completely off the rails. In addition to assuring that the sequester went into effect, they also didn't invite Chris Christie (their most electable 2016 candidate) to their upcoming Convention. I read that the focus of the convention is The Future of the Republican Party. And who did they invite to speak, instead of Christie? Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. Seriously? This truly is a party that refuses to acknowledge what the 2012 election should have taught them.

goofus

So the whacky left favors an obese governor that met with your savior but you forget all his great efforts with controling the labor unions. Youns support the capitulating fat man!!!!!

Swamp Fox

When was the last time the Democratic controlled Senate vote on a budget bill?

deertracker

Swamp Faux News????

Swamp Fox

deertick, always could watch MSPMS with the guy who gets a tinger in his legs when he hears Obama....

There you go again

This is 100 % on the president. He refuses to do anything sensible. He says he won't plan the Blame Game....as he blames Repubs for everything. Heck, Obama wrote the book on blaming. Yep, President Panic has done it again. Lie, lie, lie. If you want to point fingers, just give Obama your favorite finger salute.

lor70

Same old Same old....neither party wants to take responsibility! The democrats blame the republicans and the republicans blame it on the democrats....who's to blame?? They all are....neither side is "for the people" anymore! This is really getting old!!

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