WASHINGTON – Ten days before a new deadline for broad, automatic government spending cuts, the sense of urgency that surrounded other recent fiscal crises is absent. Government agencies are preparing to absorb an $85 billion hit to their budgets, and politicians, at least for now, seem willing to accept the consequences.
President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that “people will lose their jobs” if Congress doesn’t act. But lawmakers weren’t in session to hear his appeal, and they aren’t coming back to work until next week.
Still dividing the two sides are sharp differences about whether tax increases, which Obama wants and Republicans oppose, should be part of a budget deal.
Obama cautioned that if the immediate spending cuts – known as sequestration – occur, the full range of government will feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police, firefighters and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.
However, many Republicans now see the automatic cuts in spending as the only way to tackle the federal deficit. Some liberals won’t balk, either, because they want cuts in Pentagon spending.
And many Democrats believe the cuts will have to materialize before Republicans agree to some increase in taxes.
“Some Democrats want it because of the defense cuts, and Republicans want it because they want to do anything to cut domestic spending,” said Brendan Daly, a former top aide to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker and now Democratic leader. “And politically, it’s difficult to oppose because the impact won’t be so severe right away.”