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Decrying 'Dumb, Arbitrary Cuts,' Obama Says 'We Will Get Through This'

"Washington sure isn't making it easy" for the American people and the American economy, President Obama told reporters late Friday morning as he and other lawmakers failed to reach a deal to avert $85 billion worth of automatic "sequester" spending cuts due to start at the end of the day.

"Dumb, arbitrary cuts" will begin, Obama said, and he once again pointed a finger at Republicans. The GOP's leaders, said the president, won't agree to "close a single [tax] loophole" that might raise tax revenues.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had just minutes earlier told reporters that "the president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1st. ... The discussion about revenue in my view is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."

Obama, Boehner and other congressional leaders had just met at the White House for about an hour. The president said he told the others that "these cuts will hurt our economy, cost us jobs [and that] both sides need to be willing to compromise."

Obama also said, though, that "the American people are strong and resilient. ... We will get through this."

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. How To Stop Careening From Crisis To Crisis:

NPR's Ari Shapiro asks Obama how he plans to stop this "careening from crisis to crisis."

The president cites some things that lawmakers have been able to agree on — the Violence Against Women's Act, the outlines of immigration reform and some changes in education policy. As for the deficit and deficit reduction, he says he remains committed to making the case for "a balanced approach." His guiding principle, says Obama, will be what does the most good for the American people.

Update at noon ET. Obama Can't Do "A Jedi Mind Meld":

Asked why he can't just force Congressional leaders to stay in a room until they reach a compromise, the president says, "I am not a dictator, I am the president." And, he adds, if Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., say they have to catch a plane, "I can't have the Secret Service block the doorway."

The conventional wisdom, Obama says, is that "I'm being reasonable." And some seem to think, he says, "that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right." But that's now how things work, the president notes.

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. More From Boehner.

While the president is speaking, Boehner's office has released this statement:

"At the White House this morning, Speaker Boehner continued to press the president and Leader Reid to produce a plan to replace the sequester that can actually pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. He suggested the most productive way to resolve the sequester issue will be through regular order. The speaker reminded the president that Congress just last month provided him the tax hike he was seeking without any spending cuts. It's time to focus on spending, the speaker told the group.

"The Republican leaders reiterated their willingness to close tax loopholes, but not as a replacement for the sequester's spending cuts, saying any revenue generated by closing tax loopholes should be used to lower tax rates and create jobs. Finally, the speaker reaffirmed his intention to move legislation through the House next week to fund and keep the government running regardless of how and when the sequester is resolved. The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the president's sequester."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.