While Republicans have recently made a concerted effort to link the looming sequester to President Barack Obama, the results of a Pew Research/USA Today poll released Thursday showed that more Americans say the GOP would be to blame if the automatic spending cuts take effect.
Unless Congress acts, approximately $85 billion in automatic cuts to both defense and domestic spending are due to go into effect on March 1st.
The poll showed that 49 percent of Americans would blame Congressional Republicans if an agreement isn't reached before the deadline, while 31 percent said they would blame Obama. Another 11 percent said both would be to blame.
The plurality that said Republicans would be to blame may reflect the GOP's refusal to include tax increases in a budget agreement, as a vast majority of Americans said both spending cuts and tax increases should be a part of the next step to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Seventy-six percent said Obama and Congress should focus on a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the deficit, while just 19 percent the focus should only be on spending cuts.
However, those that favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases overwhelmingly say that the focus should mostly be on spending cuts.
Republicans have argued that the issue of increased revenues was addressed by the fiscal cliff agreement, which raised tax rates on families making more than $450,000 a year.
Recent indications that Obama holds the upper hand politically on the sequester issue may be part of the reason why House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans have recently made numerous statements referring to "the president's sequester."
Boehner spent much of an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal attempting to link the sequester to Obama, calling it a "product of the president's own failed leadership."
The House Speaker argued that Republicans in Congress reluctantly accepted the president's demand for the sequester, which was implemented as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 in order to push lawmakers to compromise on a broader budget agreement.
Boehner and other Republicans have repeatedly noted that the GOP-controlled House passed two measures to replace the sequester last year, but the legislation was never dealt with by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Democrats rejected the proposals, because they shifted the burden entirely away from defense spending and on to domestic programs such as Medicaid and food stamps.
Potentially limiting the political fallout from the looming spending cuts, the Pew Research/USA Today poll showed that only 27 percent of Americans have heard a lot about the looming spending cuts. Another 43 percent said they have heard a little, while 29 percent said they have heard nothing at all.
Pew noted that public attentiveness to the debate over raising the debt ceiling was far greater in July 2011, when 50 percent said they had had heard a lot about the possibility of a government default.
The poll also showed that 40 percent Americans think it would be better to let the automatic spending cuts go into effect if Obama and Congress cannot reach an agreement before the deadline, while 49 percent said it would be better to delay the cuts.
The White House has warned that the automatic spending cuts threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.
In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Obama argued that the top priority of everybody in Washington should be to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs.
"And that's why it's so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite," Obama said. "It won't help the economy, won't create jobs, will visit hardship on a whole lot of people."
The Pew Research/USA Today survey of 1,504 adults was conducted February 13th through 18th and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
by RTT Staff Writer
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