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Obama Urges Short-Term Delay of Sequester Cuts

Obama Urges Short-Term Delay of Sequester Cuts

By Alexis Simendinger - February 5, 2013

Faced with another Washington-created budget deadline, President Obama asked Congress Tuesday to commit to a new, short-term delay of spending cuts set to hit federal programs on March 1.

The president did not identify a time frame for his proposed delay, or a process to work with Republican opponents to achieve his call for another mini-deal for higher tax revenues blended with smaller cuts.

“The threat of massive automatic cuts have already started to affect business decisions,” Obama said. “I believe that [lawmakers] should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution,” he continued.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president sees tax reform as a way to achieve an additional $600 billion in revenue sought by the administration.

Both parties believe sequestration is a too-blunt approach to deficit reduction. Failing to achieve a broad deficit-reduction plan in 2011, they embraced sequestration as part of the compromise Budget Control Act, but then delayed its impact in January.

While Obama called anew for higher revenues Tuesday, Republicans continue to resist his enthusiasm for what was once a House GOP offer to close tax loopholes. And those same Republicans, who insist on tighter spending constraints, are nonetheless worried about national security and chafe at anticipated deep cuts at the Pentagon.

From March to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, sequestration would result in about $85 billion in spending cuts throughout the government. When the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, an additional $110 billion in savings is scheduled to kick in, a reduction to be repeated in each of eight additional years under current law.

The White House called the president’s suggested escape hatch a “temporary buy-down” of sequestration’s projected $1.2 trillion bite out of defense and discretionary spending over a decade, but the president offered no details.

In a seven-minute statement delivered in the White House briefing room, Obama said Congress could reduce the painful impact of required cuts while lawmakers work with the administration this winter and spring on a series of broad fiscal challenges.

“Congress is already working towards a budget that would permanently replace the sequester,” Obama said. “At the very least, we should give them the chance to come up with this budget instead of making indiscriminate cuts now that will cost us jobs and significantly slow down our recovery.”

Leading Republicans said Obama’s effort to delay cuts in spending was a distraction from negotiations and tough decision-making about the long-term budget, including entitlement programs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House “spends more time cooking up political dodges than reaching out to Congress to solve pressing problems. That’s why I have little doubt that the White House will likely spin these kinds of gimmicky tax hikes as a real answer to the sequester. . . . We could get more done if the president would engage seriously with both parties to develop real reforms.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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