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The nation’s brief respite from the serial budget battles that have consumed Washington, D.C., is officially over, with President Barack Obama’s Tuesday demand for new tax revenue in a short-term deal to avoid automatic spending cuts at the beginning of March.
In an appearance in the Brady Press Briefing Room, Obama once again tried to use the bully pulpit to paint the GOP into a corner, using the same fairness playbook that helped him win re-election and a victory on tax rates during the fiscal-cliff deal. This time, the scale may be smaller but the game is the same — in the president’s eyes, either congressional Republicans agree to more new tax revenue or they will bear responsibility for the economic damage and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs from the sequester taking effect.
With the debt ceiling out of the way until May and likely even later, the coming showdown over the sequester is now the main event, albeit one with less of a sense of urgency than a potential default on U.S. government obligations, the fiscal cliff or even an old-fashioned government shutdown.
Both parties seem prepared to test each other’s political pain threshold when it comes to the across-the-board cuts taking effect. There is little evidence of fresh bipartisan talks to avert the cuts, and both parties, once again, are split on the perennially thorny question of taxes. Additionally, some Republicans have hinted they would rather let the cuts go into effect than negotiate any higher taxes with the White House.
After the fiscal-cliff deal netted Obama more than $600 billion in revenue over the next decade from the wealthy, Republicans declared they would not agree to more in future talks. But the White House has made clear it sees the fiscal-cliff deal as only half of a $1.2 trillion tax increase it’d like to see.
On Tuesday, Obama said he wants more revenue even in a short-term package to avert the sequester — which would cut $85 billion in federal spending for the rest of this fiscal year and about $1.2 trillion over the coming decade.
“They should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months,” Obama said. He said there was no reason the economy “should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn’t come together to eliminate a few special-interest tax loopholes or government programs that we agree need some reform.”