President Barack Obama accused Republican rivals of threatening the fragile US economic recovery Thursday by failing to move forward on his deficit reduction plan before severe budget cuts kick in.
Obama said that by refusing to allow a vote on a Senate bill that includes a balance of tax revenue and targeted spending cuts, Republicans are "threatening our economy with a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts that will cost us jobs and slow our recovery."
At the height of an intense Washington budget showdown, Republicans and Democrats failed to advance either of two bills in the Senate aimed at averting the $85 billion in cuts slated for this year.
Members of the Senate and House then abruptly left for the weekend recess.
The inaction assures that no legislative solution will be ready before the so-called sequester kicks in on Friday, when federal programs in every agency including the military will suffer reductions.
"Middle-class families can't keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington," the president said.
"We can build on the over $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we've already achieved, but doing so will require Republicans to compromise."
Obama said Republicans, who have vowed to oppose any effort to raise new tax revenue, thumbed their nose at his bid to close tax loopholes that benefit the mega-rich.
The flame-out over the sequester heaps pressure on Obama and the four congressional leaders he meets with Friday at the White House to "discuss a path forward."
They include Republican House Speaker John Boehner and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, both of whom accused the president of a failure of leadership, as well as Democrats Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House leader Nancy Pelosi.
"As a nation, we can't keep lurching from one manufactured crisis to another," Obama said, repeating a sentiment he has often expressed since the "fiscal cliff" negotiations late last December produced only a partial solution to looming budget issues.