With the clock ticking down on both automatic spending cuts and President Barack Obama's second term, edginess has crept over the nation's capital. Both parties are nervously jockeying for position as they maneuver to try to escape blame for the cuts and increasingly turn their eyes to the next elections.
Automatic cuts slashing roughly $85 billion from military and domestic programs begin to take effect Friday — Day 40 of Obama's final term.
Historians and political scientists usually dwell on a president's First Hundred Days. But the first 100 of a second term are also critical, possibly more so.
That's because two-termers have a short second-term window for pushing through Congress big-ticket agenda items or burnishing a legacy as power begins to slip away from them — slowly at first, then at a quickening clip.
Obama is meeting Friday with the top Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress, but little headway toward a deal to replace the so-called sequester cuts is expected by either side.
"We've laid our cards on the table," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday.
Obama and Republicans have been in one budget battle after another since the GOP recapture of House control in 2010.
It's now complicating the president's efforts to move ahead on other second-term agenda items such as gun control, immigration overhaul and climate change.
Boehner is under heavy pressure not to yield to Obama on tax issues from tea party and other factions on the right, who will be a formidable force in next year's Republican midterm primaries.
Obama, who doesn't face a next election, has been barnstorming the country warning of calamitous consequences from the automatic cuts and portraying Republicans as unyielding and protective of tax breaks for the wealthy.
But many of the most dire effects of the sequester may not be felt for months, even years.
And congressional Democrats increasingly will be focusing on their own re-elections.
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- Politics & Government