The debate over Friday's looming sequester is getting more ferocious as President Obama and congressional Republicans blame each other for the $85 billion in budget cuts due to take effect at the end of this week.
A new poll finds that a plurality of Americans is still on Obama's side. Forty-five percent say they would hold the GOP responsible while only 32 percent would blame Obama if the cuts are triggered, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post. Thirteen percent say both sides would be equally to blame.
This represents some slippage in Obama's position since late December, during the last big budget debate, when 53 percent would have blamed Republicans for a stalemate and 27 percent would have faulted Obama. A last-minute deal delayed the budget confrontation until this week.
Obama plans to underscore what he calls GOP intransigence Tuesday afternoon when he speaks at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, which helps to maintain Navy vessels.
Obama says such facilities would suffer harmful cuts if the sequester—a series of automatic budget reductions—goes through. He adds that the sequester would harm many other important and popular programs across the country, and argues that the GOP wants to obstruct progress in order to protect the rich and big corporations.
Obama favors a combination of targeted spending reductions and higher taxes; the Republicans want only spending cuts.
GOP leaders say tax increases won't help the economy or create jobs. They have urged Obama to stop campaigning against them around the country, and instead stay in Washington to find a compromise.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement Tuesday that, "The president had more than a year and a half to revisit his proposal and work with us to prevent [sequestration]. He obviously thought his time and energies were better spent elsewhere. In fact, today he's off campaigning again in Virginia, instead of working with us to resolve the issue."
The sequester was created by Obama and Congress to set up a budget crisis that was thought to be so severe that legislators and the administration wouldn't let it happen. But there has been little or no movement toward compromise so far.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.