WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have refused to concede any share of the blame for failing to stave off automatic spending cuts that will slash $ 85 billion in federal spending.
The still-fragile US economy braced itself for the gradual but potentially grave impact of the across-the-board cuts, which took effect Friday night at the stroke of Obama's pen. Hours earlier, he and congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting no closer to an agreement.
Even as Democrats and Republicans pledged a renewed effort to retroactively undo the spending cuts, both parties said the blame rests squarely on the other for any damage the cuts might inflict. There were no indications that either side was wavering from entrenched positions that for weeks had prevented progress on a deal to find a way out: Republicans refusing any deal with more tax revenue and Democrats snubbing any deal without it.
"None of this is necessary," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. "It's happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit."
The president said the cuts would cause "a ripple effect across the economy" that would worsen the longer they stay in place, eventually costing more than 750,000 jobs and disrupting the lives of middle-class families.
But the Senate's Republican leader said yesterday that the automatic spending cuts that just started to kick in are modest and a step toward curing Washington of its "spending addiction."
Sen. Mitch McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union" on the across-the-board cuts are not as devastating as some predicted. The Kentucky Republican also said families have had to trim their budgets and can appreciate Washington's step to curb spending.
Obama and the Republicans have been fighting over federal spending since the opposition party regained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. The budget cuts were designed in 2011 to be so ruthless that both sides would be forced to find a better deal, but they haven't despite two years to find a compromise.
The $ 85 billion in cuts apply to the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But without a deal they will continue slashing government spending by about $ 1 trillion more over a 10-year period.
The immediate impact of the spending cuts on the public was uncertain.