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President Obama signs order to begin spending cuts


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For his part, Obama suggested he was content to leave them in place until Republicans change their minds about raising taxes by closing loopholes.

"If Congress comes to its senses a week from now, a month from now, three months from now, then there’s a lot of open running room there for us to grow our economy much more quickly and to advance the agenda of the American people dramatically," he said.

At a glance

Herbert: “Butt-biting time”

Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he expects the sequestration to kick in at the end of the week and the $85 billion in cuts will hurt, but are necessary.

“We have always said that if we continue to [borrow and spend] it’s going to come back and bite us in the butt,” Herbert said. “Its butt-biting time right now. So we’re going to find some pain. We’re going to find some inconveniences here.”

However, Herbert compared the spending and debt problem in the country to a tumor, and said that while it may be painful, its best to have the tumor removed before it does more damage.

In the long-run, the governor said gaining some fiscal stability will provide certainty to the economy and help spur long-term growth.

Next steps in budget battle

Aside from the wrangling over automatic spending cuts, the White House and Congress are looking ahead to several more budget battles in the coming weeks. They include:

AVOIDING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Lawmakers and the White House face a March 27 deadline to prevent a partial shutdown of government agencies. That’s when a six-month stopgap funding bill passed last fall runs out. The GOP-led House plans the week of March 4 to approve a plan that would include new line-by-line budgets for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs while keeping domestic agencies on autopilot, frozen at last year’s levels. Senate Democrats would like to incorporate more detailed spending bills for domestic programs but may face opposition from Republicans wary of concocting a foot-tall omnibus spending bill.

2014 BUDGET PLANS

In mid-March, both the House and Senate are expected to debate rival budget plans. These budget resolutions are nonbinding but represent an important statement of party principles. The House GOP plan promises a balanced budget by the end of a decade without raising taxes; the alternative by Senate Democrats is expected to mix in new revenues and not show balance. The two sides are not expected to be able to reconcile their differences, which promises to make it difficult to pursue follow-up legislation like the 12 annual appropriations bills.

OBAMA’S BUDGET

In mid-late March, President Barack Obama is expected to release his budget — over a month behind schedule. Budget observers will be watching for new initiatives that might help spur budget negotiations. But if he follows past practice, Obama’s budget will take few, if any, political risks.

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"So this is a temporary stop on what I believe is the long-term, outstanding prospect for American growth and greatness."

But Republicans say they are on solid political ground. At a retreat in January in Williamsburg, Va., GOP House members reversed course and decided to approve a debt limit increase without demanding cuts. They also agreed not to provoke a government shutdown, another traditional pressure point, as leverage to force Obama and Democrats to accept savings in benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Obama has said repeatedly he’s willing to include benefit programs in deficit-cutting legislation — as long as more tax revenue is part of the deal.

"I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things," he said at the White House on Friday.

Republicans speak dismissively of such pledges, saying that in earlier negotiations, the president has never been willing to close a deal with the type of changes he often says he will accept.


Hagel vows budget cuts won’t erode US military

The Pentagon will not let an impending $46 billion in budget cuts erode U.S. military power, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday. He said the cuts will “cause pain” but insisted that they can be managed without hurting national security.

At his first news conference since taking over for Leon Panetta as Pentagon chief, Hagel struck a more relaxed tone about the budget reductions, which are part of $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts that were taking effect Friday at midnight.

Whereas Panetta had warned of “catastrophic” effects that could reduce America to the status of a “second-rate” military power, Hagel said he believed the budget crisis can be managed in ways that do not put U.S. national security in jeopardy.

Hagel said the U.S. is “the best fighting force, the most capable fighting force, the most powerful fighting force in the world. The management of this institution, starting with the Joint Chiefs, are not going to allow this capacity to erode.”

Shortly before meeting with reporters, Hagel met for a little over an hour with the chiefs of each of the services, plus the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, to discuss budget issues.

Hagel said numerous actions will be taken in coming days by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to begin meeting the requirement for $46 billion in budget savings by the end of the budget year on Sept. 30. He said thousands of defense civilian workers, for example, will be notified later this month that they could be required to take one day of unpaid leave per week through September.

“I know that these budget cuts will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families,” Hagel said. “I’m also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force. For these reasons, the department’s senior leadership and I will continue to work with the administration and Congress to help resolve this uncertainty.”



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