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WASHINGTON -- The automatic budget cuts set to take hold this week were roundly condemned Sunday as governors, lawmakers and administration officials hoped for a deal to stave off the $85 billion reduction in government services.
But as leaders rushed past each other to decry the potentially devastating cuts, they also criticized their counterparts for their roles in introducing, implementing and obstructing the budget mechanism that could affect everything from commercial flights to classrooms to meat inspections.
The GOP's leading line of criticism hinged on blaming Obama's aides for introducing the budget trigger in the first place, while the administration's allies were determined to illustrate the consequences of the cuts as the product of Republican stubbornness.
Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, aware the political outcome may be predicated on who is to blame, half-jokingly said Sunday: "Well, if it was a bad idea, it was the president's idea."
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said there was little hope to dodge the cuts "unless the Republicans are willing to compromise and do a balanced approach."
No so fast, Republicans interjected.
"I think the American people are tired of the blame game," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.).
Yet just a moment before, she was blaming Obama for putting the country on the brink of massive spending cuts that were initially designed to be so unacceptable that Congress would strike a grand bargain to avoid them.
Obama nodded to the squabble during his weekly radio and Internet address.
"Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising -- instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans -- they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class," Obama said on Saturday, in his last weekly address before the deadline but unlikely to be his final word on the subject.
"We just need Republicans in Washington to come around," Obama added. "Because we need their help to finish the job of reducing our deficit in a smart way that doesn't hurt our economy or our people."