WASHINGTON -- For political reasons, details are likely to be lacking in the heated debate over deep spending cuts that will dominate Congress in the coming weeks.
Americans embrace the abstract idea of reducing federal spending. But politicians know that public support fades when specific programs are targeted. That's why Republicans wrap their calls for deep spending cuts in broad generalities. And they say President Barack Obama should propose more detailed spending reductions.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking toward the March 1 start of major across-the-board spending cuts that both parties call unwise. These are the postponed cuts from the partial resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff on Jan. 1.
Some advocates say Americans will grudgingly accept cuts to popular programs if lawmakers craft them in a bipartisan way.
Yesterday, President Obama told reporters if Congress refuses to pay America's bills on time, then Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed, that the US might have to stop paying its servicemembers and food inspectors and air traffic controllers.
Beyond that, the president stated, every American could be harmed if markets go "haywire" and the economy crashes again.
In response to that, Republicans are introducing bills they say would guarantee that seniors continue to get their Social Security and the military would still get paid.
Congress delayed passing bills like those the last time it threatened to shut down the government.
On Thursday, House Republicans will hold a retreat to talk about the impact a government shutdown would have and whether they should go through with it.
Republicans say the president can avoid a shutdown if he'll cut spending for every dollar the debt ceiling is raised.
President Obama says he remains willing to reduce the deficit by cutting spending and closing tax loopholes to raise money. But Republicans say this time only spending cuts are on the table. Firing back, Obama states Republicans "will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy."
Because of the uncertainty, people who receive government benefits - seniors, people on Medicare and military families - were advised to save whatever they can now to have money available if the worst case happens and their checks are cut off.