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US Budget Cuts Begin, Political Stalemate Endures

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Michael Bowman
— The start of automatic U.S. spending cuts has not altered a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on America’s fiscal future.  
 
Last week, the threat of across-the-board federal cuts brought President Barack Obama and congressional leaders no closer to a bipartisan budget deal.  Now, not even the start of the so-called sequester appears to be having any impact on Washington’s chronic political gridlock.
 
House Speaker John Boehner is holding firm to the Republican Party’s no-tax approach to deficit reduction.
 
“You cannot tax our way out of this problem.  We have got to deal with the spending side, just like every American family has to," he said. 
 
Boehner spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program, in an interview that was taped after Friday’s White House meeting that yielded no hints of progress between the president and congressional leaders.  
 
The speaker says Republicans are not blind to the consequences of the sequester, but determined to press ahead with deficit reduction in the face of what they see as Democratic dithering and intransigence.
 
“I am concerned about its [the sequester’s] impact on our economy and its impact on our military.  Listen, we have known about this problem for 16 months - we have known the sequester was coming.  Where was the president’s plan?  Why did they [Democrats] not pass something?  And here we are, beyond the 11th hour, looking at each other without having acted," he said. 
 
Democrats insist there is a better path to deficit reduction, a balance of targeted spending cuts, government reforms, and higher revenues.  Senator Richard Durbin appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation program.
 
“The notion of putting everything on the table: revenue, spending cuts, entitlement reform.  If we did that, we would avoid these manufactured crises like the one we are in right now," he said. 
 
President Obama has warned that the sequester will inflict real pain and inconvenience on the American people. The administration appears to be betting an outcry from the public will cause Republicans to soften their no-tax stance so a deal can be struck.
 
White House economic adviser Gene Sperling spoke on ABC’s This Week program.
 
“I believe that more Republican colleagues who are concerned about this harm to their constituents will choose bipartisan compromise on revenue.  They will choose bipartisan compromise over what is an ideological position that every single penny of deficit reduction going forward must be on the middle class, or seniors [retirees], our children," he said. 
 
Polls show more Americans fault Republicans than Democrats for America’s fiscal stalemate.
 
The sequester is a budget cutback, not a government shutdown.  Federal services will continue at a reduced pace.  What remains to be seen is how severe the actual effects prove to be, and how widespread and passionate a reaction they provoke.

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