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White House details budget fallout amid blame game

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Monday, February 25, 2013 - 7:58 am

WASHINGTON — The White House has detailed the potential fallout in each state from budget cuts set to take effect at week's end, while congressional Republicans and Democrats keep up the sniping over who's to blame.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on "Fox News Sunday" that 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," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Yet just a moment before, she was blaming President Barack 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.

The $85 billion budget mechanism could affect everything from commercial flights to classrooms to meat inspections. With Friday's deadline nearing, few in the nation's capital were optimistic that a realistic alternative could be found.

And, yes, those cuts will hurt.

They would slash from domestic and defense spending alike, leading to furloughs for hundreds of thousands of government workers and contractors.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the cuts would harm the readiness of U.S. fighting forces. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said travelers could see delayed flights. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 70,000 fewer children from low-income families would have access to Head Start programs. And furloughed meat inspectors could leave plants idled.

White House officials pointed to Ohio — home of House Speaker John Boehner — as one state that would be hit hard: $25.1 million in education spending and another $22 million for students with disabilities. Some 2,500 children from low-income families would also be removed from Head Start programs.

Officials said their analysis showed Kentucky would lose $93,000 in federal funding for a domestic abuse program, meaning 400 fewer victims being served in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state. Georgia, meanwhile, would face a $286,000 budget cut to its children's health programs, meaning almost 4,200 fewer children would receive vaccinations against measles and whooping cough.

The White House compiled its state-by-state reports from federal agencies and its own budget office. The numbers reflect the impact of the cuts this year. Unless Congress acts by Friday, $85 billion in cuts are set to take effect from March to September.

As to whether states could move money around to cover shortfalls, the White House said that depends on state budget structures and the specific programs. The White House did not have a list of which states or programs might have flexibility.

Republican leaders were not impressed by the state-by-state reports.

"The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.