President Barack Obama warned once again Tuesday that automatic spending cuts due to go into effect at the end of the month will cost thousands of jobs, urging Congress to reach an agreement to avoid the cuts.
In remarks at the White House, Obama argued that the top priority of everybody in Washington should be to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs.
"And that's why it's so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite," Obama said. "It won't help the economy, won't create jobs, will visit hardship on a whole lot of people."
The president's remarks came as approximately $85 billion in automatic cuts to both defense and domestic spending are due to go into effect on March 1st.
The automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, were implemented as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 in order to push lawmakers to compromise on a broader budget agreement.
"The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth," Obama said.
"Unfortunately, Congress didn't compromise," he added. "They haven't come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we've got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday."
Obama argued that the "meat-cleaver approach" of the sequester would have numerous negative impacts, including jeopardize the nation's military readiness, eviscerating job-creating investments, and degrading the response capabilities of emergency responders.
The president argued that the automatic spending cuts should be replaced with a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction that includes smarter spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and the closing of tax loopholes and deductions for wealthy Americans.
However, Republicans have repeatedly rejected Obama's "balanced approach," arguing that the revenue issue was addressed by the fiscal cliff agreement, which raised tax rates on families making more than $450,000 a year.
In a statement responding to Obama's remarks, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued that any revenue from closing loopholes and deductions should be used to lower tax rates.
"Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America," Boehner said. "It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus."
Boehner also noted that the Republican-controlled House passed two measures to replace the sequester last year and argued that the president has not offered a "credible plan."
However, Obama claimed that the legislation passed by the House asks nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations and places the entire burden on first responders, seniors, and middle-class families
"Well, that's not balanced," Obama said. "That would be like Democrats saying we have to close our deficits without any spending cuts whatsoever. It's all taxes. That's not the position Democrats have taken. That's certainly not the position I've taken."
"It's wrong to ask the middle class to bear the full burden of deficit reduction," he added. "And that's why I will not sign a plan that harms the middle class."
by RTT Staff Writer
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