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War of Words Taints Talks on Sequester as Obama Prepares to Meet Congressional Leaders

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All the way down the rank and file, both parties drew their battle lines in recent days.

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The war of words ratcheted up in the final moments before what may be the final talks to avoid $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that will kick in at midnight tonight, damping expectations that a deal can be reached.

Obama blamed the Republicans for letting “the entire burden of deficit reduction fall squarely on the middle class” by not allowing a vote on a Democratic initiative in the Senate to cut some spending and close “special interest tax loopholes.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) criticized Democrats for not doing their jobs and addressing the “spending problem” and $16 trillion in federal debt.

Credit: Getty Images

All the way down the rank and file, both parties drew their battle lines in recent days.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, sounded skeptical about reaching a deal, saying "I'm happy to discuss other ideas to keep our commitment to reducing Washington spending at today's meeting. But there will be no last-minute, back-room deal and absolutely no agreement to increase taxes," according to Reuters.

McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi will meet with Obama Friday morning at 10am ET to try to reach some kind of agreement.

The looming budget cuts would hit defense, with the Pentagon trimming 13% of its budget by Sept. 30, and non-defense programs such as education and law enforcement, which face 9% cuts, according to Reuters.

“I will bring together leaders from both parties to discuss a path forward,” Obama said in a statement Thursday. “As a nation, we can’t keep lurching from one manufactured crisis to another.  Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington.  We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise.”

Ahead of the talks, Boehner said Thursday that Democrats are pushing the wrong solution, saying the nation needs to lower taxes to stimulate the economy and create jobs rather than increase government spending.

“I think the spending problem that we have here in Washington is threatening the future of our kids and our grandkids, and frankly threatening the American Dream,” Boehner said in a statement.

“Republicans have offered solutions to promote economic growth and address our long-term debt crisis, and we will again as part of our upcoming budget deal with these issues in an open and honest way.  In contrast, President Obama and Senate Democrats are demanding more tax hikes to fuel more ‘stimulus’ spending.”

Democratic leaders have fired back that Republicans aren’t working to solve the problem.

“They are just making noise,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told VOA. “They are just saying something that might sound good for domestic consumption back home.  But they did not come here to legislate. They are not here to get something done because their caucus is dominated by anti-government idealogues.”

Still, some conservatives see the looming cuts as a victory in their effort to scale back the federal government, Voice of America reported.

“The brakes have got to be put on, and we are committed to this, and we realize the severity of it, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, told VOA. “It is encouraging for me to see so many of my colleagues, and also the American people, come to the realization that the federal government is too big, it is too unwieldy, it has too much control over our lives."

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