Washington — With little prospect for a federal budget deal, most members of Congress left Washington long before $85 billion in automatic spending cuts took effect Friday night, and the focus immediately turned to the next potential crisis.
The continuing resolution that funds federal government operations expires March 27. Congress hasn't passed a budget in three years, so a continuing resolution is needed. If no new resolution is adopted by the deadline, the government would shut down.
"I am hopeful we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we are dealing with the sequester at the same time," U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said.
Boehner said he wants to keep the two issues separate, but the bitterness and finger-pointing that marked the negotiations on a budget deal might make that difficult.
"This is another big deadline that we have to take action on to keep the government open," Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said. "Democrats and Republicans need to come together, make decisions, look at what's good for the country and work together."
President Barack Obama called the sequester-forced spending cuts "dumb" but said the nation would survive.
"This is not a win for anybody," Obama said at a news conference after a meeting with congressional leaders produced no movement in the stalemate.
"I told them these cuts will hurt our economy. They'll cost us jobs, and to set it right, both sides need to be willing to compromise," he said.
Boehner said Obama's push to balance cuts with closing tax loopholes is a non-starter.
"This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It is about taking on the spending problem here in Washington," he said.
Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers called the spending cuts tough love to deal with federal deficits.
"Some of the rhetoric that you've heard, I think, is outlandish," Ellmers said. "We're not going to see the devastation and the chaos that the president has been trying to put forward."
Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price called that argument "fiscal folly," saying across-the-board cuts help no one.
"It will have great damage to this economy, as well as specific functions," Price said.