By Bernie Becker - 02/23/13 11:00 AM EST
President Obama stepped up his efforts to blame congressional Republicans for looming automatic spending cuts on Saturday, calling on the GOP once again to compromise to undo the sequester.
In his weekly address, the president continued to talk up the real-world effects of the sequester, with the $85 billion in cuts set to start going into effect on March 1.
“They will eliminate good jobs,” Obama said. “They will leave many families who are already stretched to the limit scrambling to figure out what to do.”
The address caps off a week in which Obama held an event with first responders, and in which his Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, warned that the scheduled cuts could upend air travel.
Obama also cited the Pentagon’s warning this week that sequestration could cause 800,000 civilian employees to be furloughed, and said the cuts could force teachers to be laid off and hurt the military’s preparedness.
That outcome, the president reiterated, could be avoided if Republicans consent to a mix of spending cuts and new tax revenues to roll back the sequester, just weeks after Congress enacted a plan that allowed tax rates on the highest earners to rise.
Congress, Obama said, “can cut spending in a smart way, and close wasteful tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected.”
“Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising – instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans – they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class,” he added.
But as Obama’s latest comments underscore, the chances for a sequestration deal next week appear slim.
Senate Democrats have prepared a sequester replacement plan that would employ a roughly 50-50 split between cuts and revenues, and party leaders have cited poll data that they say suggests the public is on their side.
But GOP lawmakers have said that they will not agree to any more revenue increases, and believe they are in better shape than in other recent fiscal negotiations.
House Republicans leaders have also repeatedly said noted that the chamber passed sequester-replacement legislation twice last year. But that legislation expired at the end of the last Congress, and the chamber has shown no inclination to bring up another measure.
“We just need Republicans in Washington to come around,” Obama said, noting that the two parties had already come together on $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction.
“Because we need their help to finish the job of reducing our deficit in a smart way that doesn’t hurt our economy or our people. After all, as we learned in the 1990s, nothing shrinks the deficit faster than a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs.”