Obama Launches Sequester Charm Offensive

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The federal spending cuts created by the sequester are causing pain in places across the country. President Obama's political opponents, and even some in the media, want to know if the mandated cuts are being used to scare up public opposition to more federal belt-tightening.

With the president's office announcing that it will cancel spring visitor tours of the White House, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial called "Hash Tag, Sequester This."

In it, the author skewers the White House strategy to "punish eighth graders visiting from Illinois instead of, say, the employees of the Agriculture Department who will attend a California conference sipping 'exceptional local wines' and sampling 'tasty dishes' prepared by special guest chefs.'"

Meanwhile, ABC Correspondent David Kerley asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack if it's time to stop doing oil portraits of former secretaries at more than $22,000 a pop.

"You know, there are so many questions I'd be happy to answer about our budget. I just think that is a really small ball kind of question," Vilsack said.

Kerley then showed how a less costly portrait could be made, having his photo blown up at Costco for under a hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, the questions may be taking their toll as President Obama abandoned last week's take-no-prisoners strategy against Republicans. By mid-week the president was wining and dining lawmakers -- a group of senators one night and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the next day.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., approved of the move.

"As one who has been a leader in the Congress for a while, I always think it's very important to understand the motivations of members and what the possibilities are in terms of...courage," she said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed surprise that the president changed tactics from campaign events around the country to sitting down and talking with lawmakers around the country.

"I think it's a sign, a hopeful sign, and I'm hopeful that something will come out of it," Boehner said. "But, if the president continues to insist on tax hikes, I don't think we're going to get very far. If the president doesn't think we have a spending problem, I don't believe we're going to get too very far."

"But I'm optimistic," he added.

Despite the current camaraderie, yet another extension of the debt limit lies ahead later this month, leaving both sides bracing for another battle.

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