WASHINGTON -- The White House said yesterday the automatic spending cuts starting to take place across the federal government, with no end in sight, represent an "empty victory" for Republicans at odds with the party's priorities.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters it's remarkable that some Republicans are calling the so-called sequester a win for the conservative tea party and that Republicans stood up to the president, because the cuts go against usual GOP goals to increase military spending and border security. He said the cuts do nothing to address Republican priorities for long-term deficit reduction or tax reform.
The president "hopes that having achieved this empty victory, at least as they see it, the Republicans will understand that their goals are being unmet here," Carney told reporters at the White House. "So not only are Americans suffering from this, regular folks, but their objectives are being unmet and there's an opportunity to change that dynamic."
On Sunday, the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, called those cuts modest and House Speaker John Boehner said he isn't sure they will hurt the economy. White House economic adviser Gene Sperling agrees the pain isn't that bad -- yet.
After months of dire warnings, first by both sides, then mostly by the White House as the GOP changed its tune, $85 billion in government operating cuts have started.
Both parties cast blame on the other for the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, but gave little guidance on what to expect in the coming weeks. Republicans and Democrats pledged to undo the cuts retroactively, but gave no hints as to how that process would start to take shape. Republicans insisted there would be no new taxes and Democrats refused to talk about any bargain without them.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon says it will be forced to furlough about 15,000 military school teachers and staff around the world because of the budget cuts. It said it would manage the process so that the schools don't lose their accreditation.
Pentagon press secretary George Little says the military will also close all of the commissaries on bases around the world for one extra day each week. They are currently open six days a week.
Teachers are likely to have to take a day off each week as the school day can't legally be shortened.