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Obama, Congress Headed for Budget Showdown

Obama, Congress Headed for Budget Showdowni
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February 20, 2013
President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress are headed for a budget showdown on March 1 involving $85 billion in mandatory cuts, unless lawmakers come up with a different way to reduce the deficit. As VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports, the cuts will affect domestic and military spending equally, and have hardened the political battle lines in Washington.

Obama, Congress Headed for Budget Showdown

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— President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress are headed for a budget showdown on March 1 involving $85 billion in mandatory cuts, unless lawmakers come up with a different way to reduce the deficit. The cuts will affect domestic and military spending equally, and have hardened the political battle lines in Washington.

Back in August of 2011, Obama proposed mandatory budget cuts as a way of forcing action to reduce deficit spending by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

Most analysts predicted Congress agreed to this believing the mandatory cuts would never happen and that lawmakers would find a way to compromise on a different set of cuts in time to avert what many see as a ‘meat cleaver’ approach to cutting government spending.

Art of the deal

Compromise has proved elusive in the age of polarized politics in Washington, however, and the president warned lawmakers and the public about the consequences of the cuts in his recent State of the Union address.

“They would devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.

Republicans are holding firm, including the Speaker of the House, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio.

“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years, period!” said Boehner.

Opting for cuts

Analysts say conservatives now see the sequester cuts as the best way to make a real dent in government spending. Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute was a guest on VOA’s ‘Press Conference USA’ program.

“Especially a number of conservatives, in and out of Congress, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, are saying, 'Bring it on, let us do the sequester [cuts],' and the basic underlying theme is, 'We are going to get a huge set of budget cuts. We are not going to get them any other way. Big deal if they hurt. Let us make it happen,'” said Ornstein.

Ornstein said Republicans are taking a risk by backing the cuts and directly challenging Obama so soon after his re-election victory last November.

“The president has the upper hand in many objective ways. His approval rating is high. Congress’ approval rating is low, and Republicans in Congress have a particularly low approval rating. Americans do not want these things to occur.”

Slashing humanitarian, military aid

In order to block the sequester cuts from taking effect, Congress would have to pass an alternative set of budget cuts by March 1. But Ornstein said time is running out.

"And the real danger here is that we could reach a confrontation and have some real damage done that ultimately will probably be dealt with, but in the meantime the damage will be there and it will be long lasting,” he said.

The cuts would affect international humanitarian and military assistance, and could upset allies, said analyst Jim Arkedis with the Progressive Policy Institute.

"I think that the world is probably a little bit frustrated, certainly countries that are expecting to receive American aid, whether it is humanitarian or military assistance, you name it, sort of Democratic formation assistance, that sort of thing, are probably frustrated and nervous,” said Arkedis.

Neither side appears in a hurry to do much to derail the automatic cuts. Republicans see it as the only way to truly shrink government spending. Democrats believe they will reap political benefit because the public will largely blame Republicans for any disruption to government services that come about from the cuts.

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by: sdt from: ellisville,ms
February 20, 2013 7:12 PM
Well ,it just breaks my heart that " those countries expecting aid " will be mad at the USA. We are borrowing forty cents on every dollar. Tell China to help all these poor nations. We need to pay off our debts before we send aid, whetherit's miltary or humanitarian to any other country. Enough is Enough !!


by: MavisRooster from: US
February 20, 2013 6:33 PM
85 billion? Over what? A year? 10 years? If it were 85 billion a month, that would be something to talk about. Otherwise, it's nothing. Michelle has spent that much on vacations. Are we supposed to believe this nonsense is a real issue? How stupid do they think we are? In reality, the American people are probably even dumber than they imagine. Otherwise, this wouldn't be happening. We'd have cut the budget by at least a trillion a year - just to get things headed in the right direction before getting things really down to size.


by: Paul R. Barnard from: Lynn Indiana
February 20, 2013 6:19 PM
this is just another way the the pres. can be a dictator he wants his way he is nothing but a big baby(I want it my way)


by: Kevin Stober from: Helena
February 20, 2013 6:06 PM
We Americans do want these cuts and we are behind Congress being firm that something has to be done to stop all the spending and it seems the POTUS doesn't get the message so let the automatic cuts go into effect and save the people that are footing the bill the American people.


by: mb from: fl
February 20, 2013 6:06 PM
did it not say oboma proposed these cuts


by: Jeremy Quinn from: San Diego
February 20, 2013 5:55 PM
Why don't they understand that we, the people, won't hold any one party to blame, but ALL our leaders. We empowered them to speak for us and work on our behalf- not to blame someone else. Any one of us can do that.

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