Mudslinging over 'sequester' cuts continues
WASHINGTON -- The White House and Republicans kept up the unrelenting mudslinging Sunday over who's to blame for roundly condemned budget cuts set to take effect at week's end, with the administration detailing the potential fallout in each state and governors worrying about the mess.
But as leaders rushed past each other to decry the potentially devastating and seemingly inevitable cuts, they also criticized their counterparts for their roles in introducing, implementing and obstructing the $85 billion budget mechanism that could affect everything from commercial flights to classrooms to meat inspections.
The GOP's leading line of criticism hinged on blaming President Barack Obama's aides for introducing the budget trigger in the first place, while the administration's allies were determined to illustrate the consequences of the cuts as the product of Republican stubbornness.
Obama nodded to the squabble during his weekly radio and Internet address.
"Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising -- instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans -- they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class," Obama said on Saturday, in his last weekly address before the deadline.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the cuts would harm the readiness of U.S. fighting forces. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said travelers could see delayed flights. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 70,000 fewer children from low-income families would have access to Head Start programs. And furloughed meat inspectors could leave plants idled.
In Virginia, for instance, 90,000 Defense Department civilian employees could be furloughed, including nurses at Army hospitals, said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). He also said ship-repair contractors could lay off 300 of their 450 employees.
White House officials also pointed to Ohio as another state that would be hit hard: $25.1 million in education spending and another $22 million for students with disabilities.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the military cuts "unconscionable." He urged Obama to call lawmakers to the White House or to the Camp David presidential retreat for a last-minute budget summit to try to avert the cuts.