While congressional Republicans were away in their districts last week, President Obama used the time to mount pressure on them to find a way to avoid the looming sequester. Now they're back and aren't taking it anymore.
If $85 billion cuts in discretionary spending take effect on March 1 as scheduled, it will be the fault of Obama and Senate Democrats, GOP leaders said at a Capitol Hill news conference on Monday. Because the House has already voted for two bills to replace the sequester with "smarter cuts," they argued, it's the Democrats' turn to put a plan on the table.
Both sides are taking a risk in a high-stakes game of chicken, but so far the president is winning the public relations battle. In a Pew Research Center/USA Today survey released Feb. 20, 49 percent of Americans said they will blame Republicans if the sequester is not delayed. In addition, while a majority of Americans believe any deal should combine spending cuts and tax increases, Republican lawmakers say there will be no more tax increases.
They also condemned the president's use of the bully pulpit to warn Americans of the impact of cuts to come. Obama is planning to visit a shipbuilding plant in Newport News, Virginia, Tuesday to highlight how the sequester will affect jobs and middle class families in the state.
"This is not the time for a road show president. This is a time to look for someone who will lead and work with us, because we're willing to work with them to solve America's problems," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
When asked how many jobs will be lost as a result of sequester, House Speaker John Boehner couldn't say.
"But I can tell you this. If we don't solve the spending problem here in Washington, there will be tens of millions of jobs in the future that won't happen because of the debt load that's being laid on the backs of our kids and our grandkids," Boehner said.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)