There's been little sign of movement by Democrats or Republicans toward a deal this week on the "sequester," the $85 billion across-the-board cuts in discretionary programs due to begin March 1. President Obama and congressional Democrats have stuck with their argument that the spending cuts should be replaced at least in part by higher taxes and reduced farm subsidies. And Republicans have resolutely rejected anything that looks like a tax hike.
Nevertheless, the rhetoric about the sequester is intensifying, betraying how worried both sides are -- not about the cuts themselves, necessarily, but about the chance that the public would blame them for what ensues. The Republican National Committee, for example, released a video on YouTube on Thursday arguing that Obama was for the sequester before he was against it. Naturally, it took his comments about the sequester completely out of context, as Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski pointed out. Still, the operative Republican talking point is that the White House came up with this crazy idea, so if it actually happens, it's not the GOP's fault.
Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to focus the public's attention on the personnel and services that will be cut -- such as FBI and Border Patrol agents, air traffic controllers and Head Start slots -- and accusing Republicans of refusing to consider the Democrats' alternative. Although Obama has led the charge on this front, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released videos Thursday blasting 27 individual Republican House members for doing more to protect "millionaires" than the economy.