WASHINGTON Feb 21 President Barack Obama
expressed doubt on Thursday that a deal can be struck with
Republican lawmakers by a March 1 deadline to head off the start
of $85 billion in spending cuts.
His comments, made in an interview with radio talk show host
Al Sharpton, suggested the White House was preparing for the
possibility the March 1 deadline will pass with no deal.
That would set off a chain reaction of automatic spending
cuts that if left unchecked over the next few months could lead
to thousands of job furloughs.
Republican lawmakers who control the House of Representatives
are solidly against Obama's proposal to raise money for deficit
reduction by eliminating tax loopholes. Obama is insistent that
any deal to avert the spending cuts must include ways to raise
revenues so deep cuts in social programs are avoided.
"At this point, we continue to reach out to Republicans and
say this is not going to be good for the economy, it's not going
to be good for ordinary people. But I don't know if they're
going to move and that's what we're going to have to keep
pushing over the next seven, eight days," Obama told Sharpton.
Obama spoke by phone on Thursday to House of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Washington, and
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
"Whether or not we can move Republicans at this point to do
the right thing is what we're still trying to gauge," he told
If no deal is reached by March 1, and it seems unlikely one
will be, attention will immediately turn to a March 27 deadline
when a stopgap funding bill expires and a new measure would need
to be negotiated to keep the government running.
The longer the dispute drags on, the more likely the other
legislative priorities of the president, like gun control and an
immigration overhaul, will be delayed.
"I'd like to get as much stuff done as quickly as possible,"
Obama said on Wednesday in an interview with KGO-TV, a local
affiliate of ABC News in San Francisco.
"Even though I'm just starting my second term, I know that
... once we get through this year, then people start looking at
the midterms (elections). And after that, they start thinking
about presidential elections."