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'Sequester' is happening. What does the White House do now? (+video)

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(Read caption) President Obama presided Monday over the first meeting of his new Cabinet, urging humane management of spending cuts for communities and families that are 'going to be hurting.'
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OK, sequestration is really happening. Monday is the first full workday during which $85 billion in automatic federal budget reductions are in effect. Administration officials from President Obama on down have spent weeks warning about the dire effect of these reductions. So what’s the White House going to do now?

Tone down the rhetoric, for a start. Mr. Obama’s predictions of lost jobs and a slowing economy did not push Republicans into agreeing to a "sequester" avoidance deal containing some measure of increased tax revenues. Given that the effects of the budget cuts will take some time to get rolling, the White House is moving away a bit from dire talk. Democrats don’t want to be portrayed as the budgeteers who cried wolf once too often.

“I think the real issue is that this is, as the president said, a slow grind,” said White House economic adviser Gene Sperling during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “When this sequester goes off, yes, it’s not going to hurt as much on Day 1. But, again, every independent economist agrees it is going to cost our economy 750,000 jobs just as our economy has a chance to take off.”

Second, the administration wants to give the appearance of a sadder but wiser organization that’s pivoting to other business.

Thus on Monday Obama had his revamped cabinet in for a meeting. Just-confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was there, as well as new Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.

In remarks for the cameras, Obama prior to the meeting said he and the assembled department secretaries would talk about ways to ease sequester pain on federal employees. But he added that his agenda is “broader” than just preventing budget cuts. Thus the cabinet would also talk about immigration reform, early childhood education, and gun-control efforts, he said.


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