Obama Calls For Meeting Ahead Of Budget Cuts
President Barack Obama has set up a meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the $85bn in mandatory spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in later this week.
The meeting was called after a divided Congress officially missed the deadline for averting the cuts to defence and other programmes, which had been designed to be so ugly that Washington would be forced to avoid them.
It will be the first face-to-face meeting between Mr Obama and Republican leaders this year.
Prior to the White House announcement, there appeared to be no talks underway to find a better way to tackle the country's $11.7trn debt.
Some opposition Republicans seemed ready to let the cuts take effect and let attention turn to an even more worrying fiscal deadline at the end of March - a possible government shutdown.
It is hardly the scenario Mr Obama promised as he ran for re-election last year and tried to convince voters that Washington would be a different place in his second term.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House meeting is a chance to address ways to reduce government spending. He said Americans will not accept more taxes as part of a deal to avert the cuts.
Experts believe the standoff is already slowing the fragile economy's recovery from the recent recession.
Americans appear exhausted by the march of fiscal crises. Three out of four say they are not following the spending cuts issue very closely, according to a Pew Research Centre poll released this week.
Efforts to close the budget gap have been hurt by Republicans' refusal to accept new tax increases and Democrats' insistence that any spending cuts be matched by tax increases.
The spending cuts would carve $85bn from the US budget through the end of the fiscal year at the end of September, and $1.2trn over the next decade.
Economists agree that policymakers should delay the deep cuts until the economy has strengthened, but they say lawmakers should come up with a realistic long-term plan to fix the debt as soon as possible.
The country's deficits have exceeded $1trn the past four years.
Mr Obama warned that the government-wide cuts could hurt military readiness and called the move a "self-inflicted wound that doesn't have to happen".
But some opposition Republicans see the battle as their best opportunity to stand their ground and exact deep spending cuts from the president - even if it means taking money from the Defence Department, a step Republican lawmakers have traditionally opposed.