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Jeb Bush: Obama ‘oversold’ fallout from sequester cuts

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Monday faulted Washington’s handling of the sequester debate and accused President Obama of going over the top to scare voters about the fallout from the cuts. 

“There was a lot of crying wolf,” said Bush on NBC’s “Today.” 

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“The president kind of led the charge to say widows and orphans are going to be out on the street, so when it didn’t happen, he actually himself had to step back on Friday and say it wasn’t going to happen that way,” he added. “We’re going to have significant cuts in defense spending and discretionary spending for sure, but I think it was oversold.”

The automatic across-the-board cuts took effect on Friday after congressional leaders and Obama were unable to broker a last-minute replacement deal. 

Republicans have called for the $85 billion in cuts to be replaced by other targeted cuts and entitlement reforms, but Democrats are insisting on some new tax revenues to offset the budget ax.

Obama led a public push to pressure Republicans, warning of the real-world fallout from the sequester. Cabinet secretaries argued that the cuts would cost teachers and emergency workers their jobs, undermine the nation’s security and military and delay travelers. 

On Friday, ahead of the cuts taking effect, Obama said the sequester was “not going to be an apocalypse,” but warned that the public would feel “pain” from the fallout.

Bush also said the public was fed up with both Congress and the White House for careening from one self-inflicted crisis to another.

“I think people are just numb by this dysfunction and they watch it with their peripheral vision,” he said.

Both sides are still at an impasse as the cuts begin to take effect.

A senior White House official said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that congressional Republicans would see the damage caused by the billions in automatic spending cuts and eventually agree to raise taxes.

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy, said that Republicans will eventually "choose bipartisan compromise over an ideological position," on Sunday on ABC's "This Week." 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, countered the Republicans were united against using “taxes to turn off the sequester.”

Bush on Monday said Republicans might have some “wiggle room” on taxes if Obama is committed to cutting spending.

“I think it’s a little hard to imagine after January, when the biggest tax hike in American history took place and then say we have a revenue problem,” Bush said. “There may be [some wiggle room] if the president is sincere about dealing with our structural problems.”