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Sperling Says `Absolutist’ Republicans Blocking Budget Progress

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March 3 (Bloomberg) -- Intractable Republican lawmakers have blocked progress in replacing recent automatic U.S. federal budget cuts with a more palatable option, said National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling.

“What’s keeping us from working together is the Republicans taking this absolutist position,” said Sperling, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, on CNN’s “State of the Union” today, saying Republicans won’t budge on raising revenues to reduce the deficit. “This president is doing everything he can.”

Congress mandated $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts spread over nine years as part of a 2011 deal to increase the U.S. debt limit. Though the cuts were designed to be so onerous that Congress and the president wouldn’t let them occur, a congressional impasse allowed the onset March 1 of the automatic cuts set to total $85 billion this year.

Sperling said Obama worked the phones yesterday, trying to locate a “coalition of the willing” to negotiate the next steps. The he impact of the “very harsh cuts” will become more apparent over time, Sperling said.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Obama achieved tax increases this year and should now deal with spending.

“When is the president going to address the spending side of this?” he said, pointing to what he said is a need for entitlement reform. “I’ve watched leaders from both parties kick this can down the road.” He said, “We’re out of road to kick the can down.”

Boehner said the White House and Senate Democrats have no plan for replacing the current cuts.

“We have this sequester because the president demanded it and because Senate Democrats have refused to act,” Boehner said.

Sperling said on ABC’s “This Week” that top business leaders contend “this type of uncertainty and dysfunction in Washington is forcing them to hold back projects that they would be doing that would be creating jobs.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jesse Hamilton in Washington at jhamilton33@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ann Hughey at ahughey@bloomberg.net

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