House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, repeats his call for President Obama to submit a... (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — After two tumultuous years of budget brinkmanship, President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress finally agree on something — namely, that a previous 10-year pact to cut $1 trillion across the board was such a bad idea it must be stopped before it starts.
If consensus counts as good news in an era of divided government, consider this: They also disagree vehemently on a suitable replacement.
As a result, they seem likely to spend the spring and perhaps a good part of the summer struggling to escape a bind of their own making. This time, Medicare and the rest of the government's benefit programs are likely to face changes.
Already, the two sides are laying down markers.
Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to join him in developing a replacement for the across-the-board reductions, "a balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform."
"We can't just cut our way to prosperity," he told reporters at the White House.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had a different view. "If Democrats have ideas for smarter cuts, they should bring them up for debate," he said, noting that the GOP-controlled House already has produced an alternative.
"But the American people will not support more tax hikes in place of the meaningful spending reductions both parties already agreed to and the president signed into law," McConnell said, a reference to legislation earlier this year that raised taxes at upper incomes by $600 billion.
Majority Republicans in the House welcome the debate after calculating that their leverage with Obama would increase once he asked lawmakers for repeal of the across-the-board cuts.
"We've passed a bill twice to replace" them, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. "It's time for the president and Senate Democrats to do their job" without higher taxes, he added.
In fact, the across-the-board reductions themselves were born almost of desperation, designed to be so unpalatable that they would force members of a 2011 congressional "supercommittee" to agree on a sweeping anti-deficit plan rather than let them take effect.
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