Now that Washington lawmakers have finally proven just how dysfunctional they are by allowing the brutal sequester cuts to be enacted at midnight, they will now sit back and wait to see how federal agencies will slash $85 billion from their budgets.
President Obama yesterday signed the order authorizing the government to begin cutting. Though the White House has been playing up the pain the cuts will cause in an attempt to bring Republicans back to the negotiating table, the agencies will be trying to limit the damage by being as judicious as possible.
But government employees will start receiving furlough notices, and defense contracts and domestic programs will be trimmed. Active military personnel will largely be protected from the cuts, as will anti-poverty and low-income assistance programs.
After a one-hour meeting yesterday at the White House with top Congressional leaders, Obama called the cuts “dumb” and “arbitrary.”
Obama predicted that the American people will manage to keep the economic recovery going, though “Washington sure isn’t making it easy.”
“This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said,” Obama said. “It’s just dumb. And it’s going to hurt.”
He said it will be “a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day,” with the effects felt throughout the government, including the Pentagon, Border Patrol, FBI, and social service agencies.
“I don’t anticipate a huge financial crisis,” Obama said, “but people are going to be hurt.”
So will Washington’s reputation, he added.
“You know, this is not a win for anybody,” Obama said. “This is a loss for the American people.”
But Boehner and the Republicans were clear that they were not interested in any deal that included more taxes.
“Let’s make it clear, the president got his tax hike on January 1st,” Boehner told reporters after the meeting ended. “The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It’s about taking on the spending problem here in Washington.”
A story in the New York Times indicated that Boehner is being hailed as a hero among the conservative Republican House members, who were fearful that he was going to agree to another tax hike, as he did with the fiscal cliff negotiations.
The more Boehner refuses to even talk with Obama, the New York Times story said, the more he improves his standing among House Republicans. The likely result is that even when the pain visited on the American people is extreme, Boehner will have no incentive to negotiate.