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Weak Econ Data Emboldens GOP Deficit Hawks

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A deal to reduce the U.S. deficit could prove more elusive after the emergence of an economic slowdown that has widened the gulf between Democrats and Republicans over how to spur growth. With deficit talks led by Vice President Joe Biden set to resume Thursday, lawmakers from the two parties are looking closely at data showing flagging consumer confidence, a slowdown in manufacturing and stubbornly high unemployment.

For Democrats, the weak reports have reinforced fears that cutting government spending too quickly could choke off the recovery and hardened their resolve to ensure that any steep cuts be postponed until the economy is fully back on its feet.

Republicans, meanwhile, are seizing on the reports as evidence that President Barack Obama's economic policies have failed. Blaming the run-up in U.S. debt on Obama's 2009 stimulus package, they say high deficits are weighing heavily on business and consumer confidence and insist government spending must be slashed while keeping taxes low.

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