WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama blamed Congress for failing to prevent $85 billion in forced government spending cuts that take effect on Friday, saying that the sharp reduction will harm economic recovery.
The president met with with congressional leaders at the White House prior to briefing reporters, but no agreement emerged to avert the automatic austerity that both sides oppose.
He called them “dumb, arbitrary cuts” that are “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“I genuinely believe there’s an opportunity for us to cooperate,” Obama said, adding that “what doesn’t make sense is to replace this set of arbitrary cuts with an even worse set of arbitrary cuts.”
After the meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that the House will take up a measure next week to authorize federal funding beyond a March 27 deadline to prevent a potential partial government shutdown.
The funding measure is unconnected to the spending cuts, known in Washington jargon as sequestration, and Boehner reiterated his opposition to Obama’s call for more tax revenue to be part of any solution.
“I am hopeful we wont have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we are dealing with the sequester at the same time,” Boehner said.
The White House meeting also involved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The cuts involve roughly 9% for a broad range of non-defense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year. They officially take effect just before midnight on Friday.
They are the result of a deep political impasse over federal spending.
The cuts were placed into law in 2011 as leverage in negotiations on deficit reduction — something so draconian that no one would ever want them to take effect. However, no deal has emerged since to stem the red ink.
By Jessica Yellin and Tom Cohen
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