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March 2, 2013

Tierney: 'Sequester' cuts to hit elderly first

(Continued)

“Not having a balanced approach is really where the problem lies,” Tierney said.

Meanwhile, in Washington yesterday, a combative President Barack Obama blamed Republican lawmakers for failing to stop automatic spending cuts from beginning to kick in, arguing he can’t perform a “Jedi mind meld” to get Republicans to agree on a deal.

But he and GOP leaders displayed no appetite for letting the fight shut the government down later this month.

Pressed on whether he bears some responsibility for the stalemate, Obama expressed frustration — and mixed his sci-fi metaphors.

“I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right,” Obama said. The Jedi reference comes from “Star Wars,” and the mind meld from “Star Trek.”

Still, following a nearly hour-long meeting in the White House, Obama and the top four leaders in Congress generally agreed not to create a crisis out of a March 27 deadline when federal authority to spend on government operations runs out.

“It’s the right thing to do to make sure we don’t have a government shutdown,” Obama said following the meeting. “And that’s preventable.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s office said participants in the meeting agreed legislation should be enacted this month to continue government operations while lawmakers and the administration work separately to find ways to replace the automatic cuts.

The cuts were to take effect by the end of yesterday despite a parade of administration officials warning of grim consequences.

But while Obama called the cuts “dumb” and predicted they would hurt the economy, he also said: “This is not going to be a apocalypse.”

Obama is seeking a big fiscal deal that would raise taxes and trim billions from expensive and ever-growing entitlement programs. But with automatic federal spending cuts ready to start taking their toll, the path toward that grand bargain Obama campaigned on last year has significantly narrowed.

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