Obama speaks on sequester


US President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 15, 2013.


Jewel Samad

President Barack Obama spoke from the White House on Tuesday at 10:45 a.m., urging congressional Republicans to make concessions so the budget cuts that would go into effect on March 1 could be postponed.

Our top priority, he said, was to grow jobs and improve the economy. Obama was surrounded by emergency responders, a prime example, he said, of the kind of people who would lose their jobs if the sequester took effect.

He said the point of the sequester was to make it so "unattractive and unappealing" that Congress would reach a compromise. "Unfortunately, Congress didn't comprise, didn't come together."

If Congress allowed "this meat cleaver approach" to cut our deficit, Obama said, it would impact our national security, economy and health care.

"Changes like this effect our ability to respond to threats in different parts of the world," he said. "This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs."

Obama said, "There's a smarter way to do this. To reduce our deficits without harming our economy."

Obama called for a smart and balanced approach to tackling the deficit, once again saying that tax reform was as important as spending cuts.

"They'd rather have these cuts go into effect than allow a single loophole to be closed for the wealthiest Americans," Obama said, referring to congressional Republicans. "Are they willing to compromise?"

"There are people whose livelihoods are at stake," he said.

"My door is open," he said. "I am willing to work with anybody."

Obama's exasperation was evident when he said, "It seems like every 3 months around here, there's some manufactured crisis."

The cuts, known as the sequester, include around $85 billion in spending cuts across-the-board, including to education, health care and defense spending.

A White House official said Obama planned to urge Congress to approve a $110 billion tax increase and spending cut plan, which would postpone the sequester, Reuters said.

The sequester would cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

A White House official said in a statement, "The President will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice: do they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?"