The latest flash point between the White House and Congress, sequestration, looks set to trigger on Friday. There seems little possibility before then of an agreement to resolve the fiscal stalemate, meaning billions of dollars in automatic cuts in federal government spending will begin.
The impact will grow with time, unless a deal is reached, with the Pentagon the hardest single hit department with around $43 billion of reductions in the current fiscal year alone. This would mean cuts to military training, weapons acquisition and maintenance of approximately 13% in the period before Sept 31.
Especially following the tortuous "fiscal cliff" negotiations, what the sequestration episode underlines is how hard it will be for US President Barack Obama to secure major domestic policy success in his second term. Republicans (including the significant Tea Party caucus), who were so at odds with the president's first-term agenda, have maintained their firm grip of the House of Representatives, and retain a sizeable minority in the Senate.
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