President Barack Obama said the automatic spending cuts set to kick in today will be a “slow grind” on the economy and that it may take weeks to win over enough lawmakers from both parties to reach a deal on a replacement deficit-cutting plan.
Obama, speaking after meeting with top congressional leaders for less than an hour at the White House, said an agreement will be reached once members of Congress hear from voters feeling the pinch of cutbacks in government programs.
“There is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill,” Obama said. “It’s a silent group right now, and we want to make sure that their voices start getting heard.”
Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to replace the cuts, known as sequestration, totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years. Of that total, $85 billion would occur in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. The effective reductions would be about 13 percent for defense programs and 9 percent for non-defense programs, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
House Speaker John Boehner left the White House indicating Republicans won’t budge from their rejection of raising tax revenue again.
“The president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said, referring to the deal at the end of last year that let income tax rates rise for top incomes.
Boehner also said the House will vote next week on legislation to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year so Congress won’t have to deal with the risk of a government shutdown while negotiating an agreement on cutting the deficit.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who was at the White House meeting, was noncommittal about whether her party would support Boehner’s funding plan. “Certainly we don’t want to have a shutdown of government,” she said.
Obama has urged replacing sequestration with a combination of trimming spending, including in entitlement programs, and higher revenue from closing loopholes in the tax code for the wealthiest Americans.