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March 2, 2013

Tierney: 'Sequester' cuts to hit elderly first

(Continued)

“The president got his tax hikes on January 1st,” Boehner said bluntly after the meeting. “The discussion about revenue in my view is over. It’s about taking on the spending problem here in Washington.”

For Obama, yesterday’s session was the first opportunity this year to spell out his 10-year, $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan in a face-to-face meeting with congressional allies and adversaries.

His chances are squeezed by anti-tax conservatives, by liberals unwilling to cut into Medicare and Social Security, and by a Republican leadership that has dug in against any new revenue after acceding to Obama’s demands two months ago for a higher tax rate for top income earners.

The White House is still betting that once the public begins to experience the effects of the $85 billion in cuts, the pain will be severe enough to force lawmakers to reconsider and negotiate. But the consequences of the cuts — the so called sequester — are likely to be more of a slow boil. Obama this week said the effect “is not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward.”

Indeed, much of the impact won’t be felt for weeks or more than a month; some effects, like possible teacher layoffs, wouldn’t take place until the new school year in the fall.

Polls also show that the public is not as engaged in this showdown as it has been in past fiscal confrontations. And an NBC-Wall Street Journal survey indicates that Obama has lost some ground with the public on his handling of the economy.

Many conservatives are willing to accept the automatic cuts as the only way to reduce government spending, even though the budget knife cuts into cherished defense programs. Likewise, many liberals are beginning to embrace the cuts as a way to protect revered big benefit programs that have long been identified with the Democratic Party.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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