By Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, Updated: Thursday, February 28, 6:22 PM
One day before automatic spending cuts were due to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies, Congress on Thursday abandoned efforts to avert the reductions and left town for the weekend. The sequester is here, and policymakers have no plans to end it.
President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with congressional leaders, but expectations for the meeting are low. House Republicans are already turning their attention to the next deadline on March 27, drafting a measure that would avoid a government shutdown while leaving the sequester in place through the end of September.
Administration officials insist that the path to compromise lies in a “balanced” approach that replaces the cuts in part with higher taxes. But among Republicans — even those who admit the sequester will cause pain to the folks back home — the appetite for new taxes is virtually nil.
“Look, the American people will simply not accept replacing spending cuts agreed to by both parties with tax hikes. And I plan to make all of this clear to the president when I meet with him,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Despite a steady drumbeat of dire warnings from the White House about the sequester’s impact on jobs and economic growth, financial markets reacted with a yawn. On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down a bit after surging within 25 points of its all-time high, reached in October 2007.
Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would delay furloughs of agency workers until after the April 15 tax-filing deadline, providing another reason to doubt that the ...