Last Updated:December 18 @ 06:02 pm

President with no budget plan pleads with Congress to avoid sequestration

By McClatchy Washington Bureau

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama urged Congress on Tuesday to pass a package of modest cuts and tax changes as a way to delay drastic, across-the-board federal spending reductions that could harm the economy.

But Obama's proposal would only postpone the $85 billion in automatic cuts, scheduled to take effect March 1, by a few months until a larger deal could be reached.

"Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs, and it will slow down our recovery," Obama said in a seven-minute statement to reporters at the White House. "It's not the right thing to do for the economy. It's not the right thing for folks who are out there still looking for work."

Obama's remarks came as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its forecast for the next decade

The CBO projects, absent changes in spending and/or taxes, that federal debt held by the public will reach levels akin to 76 percent of the total economy, the largest percentage since 1950. It would tick up to 77 percent by the end of the decade and rise even further in years beyond that.

Obama did not offer a specific proposal or release any new plans Tuesday. But he said Congress should approve additional revenue by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions benefiting certain industries or the wealthy, as well as spending reductions.

He also said Congress should rely on a proposal he made in mid-December to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, which includes, among other changes, a less-generous measure of inflation to Social Security and other programs and cuts to health care.

On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Republicans began criticizing Obama's comments even before he uttered them, dismissing them as more partisan rhetoric and the same mix of tax increases and defense cuts he advocated in the past. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the president had an "unserious attitude."

"We must be clear. This approach is neither responsible nor balanced," said a joint statement by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The automatic cuts -- known inside the Beltway as sequestration -- are the result of a bipartisan deal struck in 2011 to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Congress agreed that if a 12-member committee failed to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the cuts would come from government spending.

The first round of $109 billion in cuts was set to start in January. But the White House and Congress agreed to delay that until March 1 as part of a deal that raised taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans. The bill, passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on New Year's Day, also lowered the cuts to $85 billion.

The reductions, nearly 10 percent of the nation's defense and domestic spending, would be felt immediately in a wide range of government programs: fewer FBI agents, less food assistance for low-income families and a delay in new equipment and repairs for the military. The cuts could lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

In recent weeks, some Republican lawmakers suggested that the government should consider allowing the original cuts to go forward.

"We're willing to let it go through till they (Democrats) respond to us," said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.

CBO director Douglas Elmendorf told reporters Tuesday that there are consequences for allowing fiscal problems to go unfixed.

Taking $2.34 trillion out of the 10-year projected deficit, he said, would only bring down the percentage of debt held by the public from 77 percent to 66 percent at the end of a decade. That's still well above the historical average of 39 percent over the past 40 years.

"There are costs and risks of maintaining debt at that level," the CBO chief said, adding that high debt levels leave the U.S. government with little room to maneuver if the economy were to slide back into recession or faced other shocks.

House Republicans insist that the nation faces a spending problem and that additional revenue is not part of the solution, even if it's masked as closing loopholes or raising fees.

Higher taxes would be "nothing more than another tax hike to pay for more Washington spending," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. "That is not what America needs."

House Republicans want the White House to accept the alternative spending cuts the chamber passed twice last year. The partisan plan died in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the House Republicans pressed ahead with legislation that would require Obama to produce a balanced budget in 10 years.

"This president, it's time for him to step up, put forward a balanced budget or tell us when his budget will balance," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the bill's chief sponsor.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, scoffed and said the bill was nothing more than a "meaningless political action."

The House will spend much of its week debating the bill -- and likely vilifying Obama for not proposing a budget by his deadline Monday. Administration officials attribute the delay to the New Year's Day agreement.

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(Staff writer Kevin G. Hall contributed to this report.)

(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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4 Comments

  1. my04301933Comment by my04301933
    February 6, 2013 @ 8:41 am

    Just what in the world is it that motivates Obama to AVOID a BUDGET?

    And what in the world motivates a Congress that has the majority to buy into the OBAMA manure, excrement and feces we’ve learned to call lies?

    Ever since OBAMA, ever since the Clintons, have come on our governmental scene there has been nothing but ineptness, fiasco after fiasco, lies, destruction, threats to citizens, deals with the Cartel, romance with illegal aliens who in the past we would have shot for their violation of our laws…

    Think about it…our country is out of control…

    We have:

    The Extreme Liberal,
    The Average Liberal,
    The Extreme Democrat,
    The Democrat,
    The Moderate,
    The so called Conservative,

    and worse of all…The G.O.P. and Boehner

    And nothing has been accomplished by either…

    Folks…I’ve given the G.O.P., and Boehner, all I’m going to give…

    They are history, they are no longer qualified for my vote nor my support…

    I want a representative, a Congress and Senate, made up of PEOPLE LIKE YOU…

    Maybe the Tea Party could be a safe choice…it has matured somewhat, pretty much I guess,…but look what it made happen in 2010 even when it was still a newby on the scene.

    But I do know, I don’t need the G.O.P. any longer. There are still some good representatives in the G.O.P., and I think they should be carefully evaluated then recruited.

    It is insane to vote for a G.O.P. just because there is no other appropriate choice…WE SHOULD BUILD A BETTER CHOICE, a better party..

    It has come about in my life that when my mother asks me what I do, I tell her…

    …I play the piano in a house of ill repute…(because I’m ashamed to tell her I was a Republican…)

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    • kuhndogComment by kuhndog
      February 6, 2013 @ 10:22 am

      Sorry – but I cannot agree. with throwing the GOP under the bus. I realize they have not been the solution and there could/should be better candidates out there to take thier places.
      But its this exact attitude that got Obummer re-elected. Had the 3 million or so rebubs out there that stayed home and didn’t vote because they didn’t think Romney-Ryan was the best possible ticket – we’d be looking at a rebub congress and a repub executive. There would be at least a hope of making some responsible progress.

      We need to be able to compromise and get 85% of what we want. That is the Reagan way – and the only way with so many uninformed & low info voters out there today.

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  2. JDZComment by JDZ
    February 6, 2013 @ 10:14 am

    It is frustrating to watch and, fortunately, it is a good thing that the Democrats do not control the House as well as the Senate or the situation would be even worse. Boehner and the House have written over 40 legislative bills dealing with a balanced budget, repeal of Obamacare, tax reform, job creation bills, etc. all which were passed in the House and sent to the Senate over the last two years. Harry Reid has refused to bring any of this legislation to the floor in the Senate for debate or an up or down vote. He has basically singlehandedly shutdown Congress from doing their job and getting away with it while blaming Republicans for the low public approval level of Congress.

    The Obama administration has chosen to work around Congress using executive orders and internal policy changes thus avoiding the visibility of national debates on various policies and legislation.

    The Dems have done such a good job of demonizing Republicans from Romney to Boehner and beyond that they have created high levels of frustration and friction within the conservative base in the country which is working to the benefit of the liberals.

    In the meantime, Obama continues to dismantle the foundation of our country and put in place the framework for a huge entitlement based, collective modeled, socialist ideologically based government.

    Apparently the majority of the voting public want this huge unaffordable nanny state government model for America.

    Sad but true.

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  3. aretiredgiComment by aretiredgi
    February 6, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Coming from the wonderful state of ILLinOIZ, starting to get the feeling that the dumbies in Springfield may have their work cut out for them to retain their strangle hold within the state. The Obozo Gov doesn’t have a clue and his own party is starting to see the light.

    Might even even give Sen Turban (not a typo) problems in the future. How did we ever get to this position? That’s a rhetorical question sports fans.

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