(We updated the top of this post at 1:30 p.m. ET.)
Looking to head off deep, automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon said that to avoid the negative economic effects that come with "political disfunction," Congress should move quickly to pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" that won't hurt the economy.
Sen. Dean Heller (left), R-Nev., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speak Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol about legislation to delay a potential clash over the debt ceiling until May — and to freeze the paychecks of lawmakers if they don't pass a budget resolution.
Credit Mark Wilson / Getty Images
As if the federal budget process isn't confusing enough, now we get the fog of partisan war created by the charges and countercharges flying between congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans accuse the Democrats who control the Senate of shirking their duty by not producing "a budget" in recent years; Democrats accuse Republicans of not telling the whole truth.
What's going on? Here are five points to consider.
The U.S. Capitol at sunrise on Monday, before President Obama's second inauguration. While the president raised big issues in his inaugural address — climate change, gay rights, immigration, the shooting of schoolchildren — none of them appear to top the agenda of Congress, which returned to work Tuesday.
The Senate picked up Tuesday exactly where it left off nearly three weeks ago. By a twist of the rules, the Senate chamber remains in its first legislative day of the 113th Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he's kept things at the starting point so that he and his fellow Democrats have the option of changing the rules on the filibuster by a simple majority vote.
"The Senate will take action to make this institution that we all love, the United States Senate, work more effectively," Reid said Tuesday. "We'll consider changes to the Senate rules."
Chief Justice John Roberts speaks in Farmington, Pa., in June.
Credit Ann Wilkins / AP
Chief Justice John Roberts wants everyone to know the federal judiciary is doing its part to keep down government costs. Roberts used his year-end report on the state of the courts to point out that the judicial branch consumes "a miniscule portion of the federal budget" — about $7 billion in fiscal year 2012, or two-tenths of 1 percent of the total government budget.