As meeting yields no breakthrough, Obama blames 'dumb' cuts on GOP
By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News
President Barack Obama discusses his Friday sequester meeting at the White House with Capitol Hill lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner.
Lamenting the idea that only a "Jedi mind meld" could prod the GOP into compromise, President Barack Obama said Friday that the "dumb" automatic across-the-board cuts going into effect today are the fault of Republican resistance to a reasonable deal to avert the sequestration's budget reductions.
"I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington," Obama told reporters after meeting with congressional leaders. "Even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree that I am presenting a fair deal -- the fact that [Republicans] don't take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right," he said.
"I'm not a dictator," he said. "I'm the president. So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say 'I need to go to catch a plane,' I can't have Secret Service block the doorway, right?" Asked why leaders did not negotiate more vigorously to get a deal before sequestration deadline day, Obama said that his ability to negotiate is limited by Congress's unwillingness.
Obama acknowledged that the sequester's effects will be painful but predicted that the cuts will be manageable by a resilient American people.
"We will get through this," he said. "This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said. It’s just dumb. And it's going to hurt."
The president huddled Friday with leaders at the White House in a meeting largely considered to be a show of effort in advance of inevitable sequestration cuts.
In a brief statement to reporters after the meeting, Boehner reiterated that Republicans will continue to oppose Democratic proposals to raise new revenues to offset the cuts.
"The discussion about revenue, in my opinion, is over," he said. "It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."
The House Speaker added that Congress will move next week on a measure to maintain government funding after March 27th.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But even since the meeting was first announced on Wednesday, hopes were bleak for an eleventh hour solution to the across-the-board cuts.
In a written statement released Friday morning before the meeting, McConnell all but promised that no last-minute solution would be hammered out.
"I'm happy to discuss other ideas to keep our commitment to reducing Washington spending at today's meeting,” he said. “But there will be no last-minute, back-room deal and absolutely no agreement to increase taxes."
Budget sequestration, which formally begins when the president orders it into effect sometime before 11:59 p.m. ET tonight, will result in $85 billion in spending cuts this fiscal year.