Slim hopes for a last-minute deal to avert spending cuts that kicked in Friday were dashed with an unproductive meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders at the White House.
After hosting House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for nearly an hour, Obama declared the inevitable cuts “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“Washington sure isn’t making it easy,” he said during an appearance in the White House briefing room. “We shouldn’t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on.”
Now $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will begin — a development Obama squarely placed on Republicans for their refusal to raise taxes on corporations.
“The majority of the American people agree with me,” he said of his call to close tax loopholes for corporate jet owners and oil companies. “We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and country on this.”
Speaking for his Republican colleagues, however, Boehner countered, “The discussion about revenue is over.”
He added that the House would not push a plan to avoid the so-called sequester, saying the onus was on the Senate to first come to a consensus. On Thursday, Democratic and Republican deficit-reduction plans failed to pass the Senate.
Washington’s attention now turns to the March 27 deadline for a continuing resolution needed to keep the government funded — without a compromise, the government would shut down.
Obama indicated Friday that he would not veto a deal to keep the government funded over his sequester demands, meaning the cuts could be here to stay, at least in the short term. According to Boehner’s office, Obama and congressional leaders agreed legislation should be enacted to prevent a government shutdown separately from the fight over the $85 billion in cuts.
Friday also marked a decided shift in tone for the president, who spent recent days ratcheting up fears about the impact of the spending reductions, focusing on areas like public safety and transportation delays.
But now that the cuts are going into effect, he declared, “This is not going to be an apocalypse — it’s just dumb.”