Obama to warn of sequester job losses in visit to Newport News

President Obama will visit a Newport News, Va., shipyard on Tuesday, the latest in a series of events designed to highlight the potential effects of the billions in budget cuts set to trigger at the end of this week.

The event comes as the White House is frantically attempting to avert the $85 billion across-the-board sequester cuts that appear increasingly likely. According to White House officials, the rally will echo many of the frequent refrains of the past week, with President Obama using Newport News Shipbuilding — the largest manufacturing employer in Virginia, and a company that relies on suppliers from every state in the union — to again illustrate what could be the severe consequences of sequestration.

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Moreover, Obama will travel with a bipartisan group of officials — including Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) — as he attempts to pressure Republican leadership to accept a deficit deal that would prevent the sequester through a mixture of spending cuts and new revenues.

Last week, Rigell — who represents the state's tidewater region, an area dominated by defense contractors —  told The Wall Street Journal he wanted GOP "leadership to consider it [a compromise that includes closing tax loopholes] and not reject it outright.” But Rigell hails from a district that voted for Obama in 2008, and will see some of the largest impacts from the $46 billion in cuts to the Pentagon budget.

Republican leaders, returning to Washington on Monday, struck a different tone, accusing Obama of campaigning around the country instead of working with Congress to strike a deal.

"This is not time for a road-show president," House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who represents a district just up Interstate 95, accused Obama of offering a "false choice" between tax increases and the sequester cut. He and other Republicans said that the harshest impacts of the sequester could be blunted if Democrats would agree to a more intelligently designed package of spending cuts.

Administration officials maintain the size of the sequester — roughly 3 percent of the federal budget — represents cuts that are too severe to remain unnoticeable.

"There's no way around it," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. "It can't be written off, not with the size of these cuts, and the fact that they needed to be implemented in such a short period of time in this fiscal year."

Moreover, they believe they can ratchet up pressure on Republicans by informing voters how their services and livelihoods could be affected by the cuts. In Virginia, according to administration projections, some 90,000 Department of Defense employees could be furloughed, while modernization, maintenance and demolition projects at the state's many military bases could be put on hold or canceled.

One White House official says Obama plans to "make clear that the only reason these cuts will take place is if Congressional Republicans choose to protect loopholes only enjoyed by the wealthiest and big corporations at the expense of jobs in Virginia."

House Republicans say the president's presentation amounts to little more than rhetorical flourish on a problem they have already attempted to solve. The House twice passed offsets in 2012 that would have replaced the sequester with other spending cuts, although it has not yet acted this year. GOP leaders say they also already agreed to new tax revenues as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal last month.

“Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president were serious, he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems," said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). "The House has acted twice. We shouldn’t have to act a third time for the Senate to begin to do their work.”

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