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Obama agenda: Sequester blame game

The Hill calls the fight over the sequester a “game of political chicken.” More: “Obama will hit the road again next week for campaign-style events at which he will argue Republicans are to blame for hurting the economy and national security if the cuts go through… Republicans, for their part, are equally confident it is Obama who will get the blame once the sequester is implemented on March 1. They agree the cuts will be harmful but find fault with Obama for signing the sequester into law and for having the idea in the first place.”

Roll Call calls Obama’s speech yesterday a “continuation of the White House strategy since winning tax rate hikes on the wealthy alongside permanent middle- class tax relief during the fiscal cliff deal.”

The Hill: “Continuing to hunt for a political advantage in the fight over the looming sequester, President Obama on Wednesday will conduct interviews with eight local television stations in an attempt to intensify pressure on congressional Republicans.”

USA Today calls it “lights, camera, sequester.”

“Budget cuts by the Army and Navy scheduled to take effect March 1 will force more than $26 billion in wage and spending reductions and prompt furloughs or layoffs for more than 450,000 people nationwide, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.” More: “Hardest hit states by the Army cuts include Alabama, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Among the least affected: Delaware, Wyoming, Montana and Rhode Island.”

Another USA Today piece on the consequences of the sequester: “Looming across-the-board federal spending cuts threaten to weaken the national criminal background check system for gun purchases, federal officials warn, even as lawmakers work to draft compromise legislation to expand and improve the background check system.”

Obama talked to John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio yesterday, three of the four GOP senators working on immigration. The Hill called it “an effort to smooth the waters.”

Beth Reinhard: “Such public declarations largely amount to political posturing. Obama’s liberal base expects a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants than what Rubio has outlined. Rubio risks his credibility with conservatives if he appears to be in cahoots with the president. With Rubio’s political identity hinging on his status as a leading Republican foil to the president -- exemplified by his delivery of the party’s official rebuttal to the State of the Union speech last month -- it’s hard to imagine these rivals coming together. But while some immigration reform advocates worry that ill will could doom a deal, they also point to the high stakes for both sides in courting the fast-growing Hispanic community that sealed Obama’s second term. In other words: Obama and Rubio may never be friends, but they could be frenemies.”

Vice President Biden in a Facebook chat with Parents magazine said people should buy shotguns and not assault weapons. “If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun,” Biden said, per Roll Call. He told his wife: “If there’s ever a problem here, just walk out on the balcony, here, walk out, put that double barrel shotgun and just fire two blasts outside the house. … I promise you, whoever’s coming in is not going to — you don’t need an [assault rifle]. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and, in fact, you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun, buy a shotgun.”

“A call over the weekend ended a week of speculation that Russia had been snubbing the new secretary of State,” The Hill writes. “Russia's foreign minister finally returned Secretary of State John Kerry's phone call from last Monday over the weekend, the State Department said. Kerry had been trying to reach Sergei Lavrov ever since North Korea tested a nuclear device last Monday evening. The two finally connected over the weekend, ending a week of speculation that Russia had been snubbing the new secretary of State.”

Tiger Woods called it “pretty cool” golfing with Obama.

The Hill says the Pentagon is investigating the SEAL who shot bin Laden to see if any classified information was mentioned during his interview with a reporter.