Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is urging Congress to replace the automatic spending cuts due to start Friday with more gradual reductions in budget deficits in the short run while House Speaker John Boehner is using salty language to prod the Senate to act.

Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke says it's important not to cut the deficit too much while economic growth remains fragile. He noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the automatic spending cuts would trim growth by 0.6 percentage point this year

Bernanke also told the panel that the Fed's low interest-rate policies are providing key support for an economy that's still struggling with high unemployment. While he acknowledged that the Fed's aggressive bond purchase program could eventually ignite inflation or unsettle investors, Bernanke says those risks are contained for now.

Boehner gets salty to prod Senate on sequester


Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) listens to questions during a press conference (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Speaker John Boehner is using salty language to prod the Senate to act on legislation to replace automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

Boehner complained at a news conference Tuesday that the House has twice passed bills that would replace the across-the-board cuts with more targeted reductions, while the Senate has not acted.

Senate Democrats have unveiled a package that would replace the sequester with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The Senate could act on a bill later this week, though it is unlikely to pass because Republicans oppose the tax hikes.

A frustrated Boehner told reporters, quote, "We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something."

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