National & World News

Obama calls for short-term fix to imminent spending cuts

By Dan Lothian and Tom Cohen, WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama will call on Tuesday for a short-term agreement to put off deep cuts to government spending, including the military, set to take effect next month, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN.

The president will make a statement to reporters at 1:15 p.m. ET that urges Congress to pass a measure that would put off the imminent spending cuts — known as sequestration — that were part of a 2011 debt ceiling deal, the official said.

A White House official, also on condition of not being identified, issued a statement that said Obama will call for a balanced approach — which is code for including additional revenue with spending cuts — to “avoid the deep, indiscriminate cuts to domestic and defense programs slated to take effect in just over three weeks.”

House Republican leaders on Tuesday slammed the president for failing to produce a budget proposal the day before, which they said is a long-standing federal deadline under law.

In the debt ceiling deal that ended a showdown over whether to increase the federal government’s borrowing limit to meet its obligations, Congress and the White House agreed to include the automatic spending cuts of sequestration as motivation to pass a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan.

Deep partisan divisions prevented such an agreement from happening in 2012, an election year.

The government already delayed the impact of spending cuts, which took effect for 2013, from being felt for the first two months of the year.

“Given that the budget process in Congress won’t likely be completed by March 1st, the president on Tuesday will call on Congress to pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms to avoid the economically harmful consequences of the sequester for a few months, which will allow Congress more time to reach a solution that permanently avoids the sequester and significantly reduces the deficit in a balanced way,” said the statement by the White House official.

“While we need to deal with our deficits over the long term, we shouldn’t have workers being laid off, kids kicked off Head Start, and food safety inspections cut while Congress completes the process,” it said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reacted to news of Obama’s plan by saying it was the president who “first proposed the sequester and insisted it become law.”

Reiterating the longstanding position of Republicans in budget negotiations, Boehner called for replacing the sequester plan with spending cuts and what he called reforms — a reference to changes in popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

A last-second agreement in the previous Congress that passed in the first days of 2013 raised tax rates on top income earners as part of a limited deficit-reduction package.

That measure followed weeks of tough negotiations involving Obama and Congress in which other steps to increase government revenue, such as eliminating some tax breaks for corporations, were considered but not included in the final deal.

Obama and Democrats now want such revenue-raising steps to be part of a package that would replace the mandated deficit reduction of the sequester cuts.

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