President Barack Obama says "I'm willing to work with anybody to get this job done" in trying to deflect a speeding meteor of across-the-board spending cuts headed straight for the federal government. "So my door is open."
Republicans argue his door isn't very open considering the president's refusal to consider a fix of targeted spending cuts alone, as Republicans want.
Instead, he's demanding a "balanced" package of cuts and loophole-closing tax increases.
The president has had little direct contact with Republicans to find a way around the roughly $85 billion in indiscriminate "sequester" cuts set to begin in nine days.
"I don't have any calls or communications to read out to you," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at his daily briefing.
Neither party says it wants the March 1 cuts -- coming on autopilot absent congressional intervention -- given the fragile recovery and stubbornly high unemployment.
Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have a rocky record in past negotiations.
"Frankly, every time I've gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, you know, it's my rear end that got burnt," Boehner said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Boehner's flexibility is seriously limited by an internal divide between a GOP establishment open to negotiations and an insurgent right resisting compromise.
So both sides have been lobbing shots from afar.
Obama blasted Republicans in a White House speech in front of first-responders whose jobs he suggested are at risk. Boehner hit back, writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal that the latest impasse is "a product of the president's own failed leadership."
White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer took issue, writing in a White House blog Wednesday that Boehner and the Republicans "would rather see our recovery and middle class economic security be put at risk than close one tax loophole for big corporations and the wealthiest."
So far it's just been back and forth -- with no apparent headway.
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