By Zachary A. Goldfarb
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday acknowledged that deep federal budget cuts are here with no end in sight, an outcome that he warned would harm the economy but said he lacked the power to stop.
A final attempt to find common ground with congressional leaders at a White House meeting proved fruitless. The president continued to press for higher taxes as part of a deal and Republicans continued to refuse — clearing the way for $85 billion in cuts this fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
The reductions, which Obama was set to formally enact late Friday, are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. There had been speculation that they might be adjusted later this month when lawmakers must agree on a new deal to fund the government or risk a shutdown. But Obama made clear Friday that he would seek to avoid a shutdown even if that means allowing the across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester, to continue.
The failure to reach a deal to turn off the sequester after years of clashes over spending and taxes will usher in an era of deeper austerity in the United States. To date, the country has resisted the sharp pullback in federal spending that has been more common in Europe.
The onset of the sequester will also introduce a new level of uncertainty for Americans who rely on the government for employment or services, with an outsize impact in the Washington region.
For Obama, the failure to reach a deal is a setback. He has spent years arguing that efforts to tame the nation's debt should involve a balance of spending cuts and tax revenues. As things stand now, the onset of the sequester means that balance tilts heavily toward cuts.