Officials: Sequester to Bite Slowly

The Obama administration still hopes for a deal with Republicans.

By + More
President Obama is pushing the Senate to move forward on gun legislation.

Administration officials are still warning that the new round of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, will harm many Americans, but they are emphasizing that the full impact will take a while to develop. White House economics adviser Gene Sperling said Sunday that the cuts won't bite harshly for several weeks or months.

He expressed hope that Republicans, who control the House and are resisting President Obama's fiscal priorities, will be pressured by voters at home to cooperate with the president over time.

"Our hope is that as more Republicans start to see this pain in their own districts, that they will choose bipartisan compromise over this absolutist position," Sperling told NBC's Meet the Press.

[READ: Will Sequester's Arrival Break Obama's Hot Streak?]

At some point, Sperling suggested, the GOP and Obama can still make a deal to reduce the deficit that combines both spending cuts and tax increases. So far, House Republicans have insisted that only spending cuts would be appropriate, partly because they agreed to raise taxes on the wealthy in a deal made with Obama earlier this year. The sequester started Friday night.

President Obama is pushing the Senate to move forward on gun legislation.

And there is another school of thought that the furor in Washington over the sequester has been overdone. Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker, writing in USA Today, says truly essential programs, such a Social Security and Medicare, and paychecks for military forces, are exempt from the sequester.

Other important programs such as fire fighting and police protection are provided by states and localities, not the federal government, Baker argues. He says the sequester will cause pain, but it won't be as debilitating as some "politicians inside the Beltway" have argued.

[CHARTS: Sequestration Drama May Overstate the Stakes]

"The shrug with which most Americans greeted the fight over automatic spending cuts tells us something important about our system of federalism: that most of what touches our lives on a daily basis does not come out of Washington," Baker writes.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Facebook and Twitter.