Jon Karl to Earnest: Is Obama Willing To Shut The Government Down If Sequester Cuts Stay?

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At Tuesday's White House briefing, Jonathan Karl of ABC News pressed White House press secretary Josh Earnest on what President Obama will do if Congress passes a budget that includes sequester cuts to spending.

"Is the president willing to shut the government down if Congress doesn't agree to limit the sequester spending levels?" Karl asked.

Earnest took a swing at Republicans, calling the spending cuts "mindless austerity," but would not say if the president would be willing to shut the government down.

"The president feels very strongly that Congress needs to both pass a budget on time, but also make sure that our economy and our national security priorities don't have to suffer from the mindless austerity that was brought about in the sequester," Earnest said.

Karl then repeated the question.

"So he would veto a spending bill that didn't raise the spending levels?" Karl asked. "He would be willing to shut the government down unless the Congress agrees to lift those spending levels?"

"The president's position on this has been very clear that he will not sign into law a budget bill that would lock in sequester levels of spending," Earnest responded.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Let me ask that question about the budget differently. Is the president willing to shut the government down if Congress doesn't agree to limit the sequester spending levels?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Jon, the president feels very strongly that Congress needs to both pass a budget on time, but also make sure that our economy and our national security priorities don't have to suffer from the mindless austerity that was brought about in the sequester. So, the president has made clear that he will not support legislation that locks in those sequester caps that neglect our economic and national security priorities. The good news --

KARL: So he would veto a spending bill that didn't raise the spending levels? He would be willing to shut the government down unless the Congress agrees to lift those spending levels?

EARNEST: Well, let me say a couple things about that. The first is that it's not at all clear to me that there is bipartisan support. Let me say it this way -- it's not at all clear to me that there is enough support in the United States Congress to pass a budget that would walk-in sequester spending...

The president's position on this has been very clear that he will not sign into law a budget bill that would lock in sequester levels of spending.

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