By Mark Deen
May 27 (Bloomberg) — Gone are the cold February predictions of mass layoffs, family upheaval and the prospect of a new recession because of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. Cabinet secretaries no longer visit the White House briefing room to offer dire forecasts about teacher firings or unsecured borders.
With the economy growing, unemployment falling, Republicans unmoved in resisting tax increases and little sign of the public backlash the White House expected, Obama is adjusting to the spending curbs he once derided as “just dumb.” Attacks on sequestration have receded as a major theme of his speeches.
“He probably has concluded that he can’t change it,” said Stan Greenberg, a Democrat who was a pollster for former President Bill Clinton. “He’s moved away from it because he thinks it’s giving Republicans leverage by focusing on it.”
As the president’s criticism of sequestration wanes, so do prospects for a budget deal big enough to address the U.S.’s long-term fiscal debt, a goal central to helping cement Obama’s legacy that has eluded him since midway through his first term.
Sequestration was designed to be so intolerable to both Republicans and Democrats that the parties would be motivated to reach a broad budget accord to avert the cuts, which would slash spending by $1.2 trillion over nine years. Republicans were supposed to come to the table to stop reductions in defense outlays — which are targeted for about half the cuts — and Democrats to restore funding for domestic programs such as special education, jobless benefits and medical research.