GOP lawmakers on Tuesday charged that Obama has been AWOL while they are actually working to stop the $55 billion cut to defense spending in 2013 that would hit Jan. 2.
In an interview Monday with The Virginian-Pilot, Obama said Republican obstructionism had blocked a solution to avoiding the impending cuts.
"The only thing that's standing in the way of us solving this problem right now is the unwillingness of some members of Congress to ask people like me — people who've done very well, millionaires, billionaires — to pay a little bit more, in part, to preserve the freedoms that we hold dear,” Obama said. “There's no reason we can't get a deficit-reduction package that takes sequestration completely off the table."
McCain and Ayotte hit back in their statement, saying that Obama's comments "demonstrate that he is content to wait until after the November election to engage in discussions to resolve this pressing national security issue."
“By refusing to lead, President Obama shows that he is willing to risk our nation’s security for purely political purposes,” they added.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement that while the president says he's ready to resolve sequestration, House Republicans have acted with their budget to reverse next year's cuts.
“I hope that the President is serious about coming to the table, and I hope he brings Senator [Harry] Reid [(D-Nev.)] and a credible plan with him when he does,” McKeon said.
Both Republicans and Democrats want to avert the sequestration cuts, which would cut $500 billion over 10 years to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, but the two parties are at an impasse over replacing the cuts.
Congressional Republicans and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have blamed Obama for the pending cuts, saying he is endangering the military in order to win tax increases.
Obama and Democrats point out that the Budget Control Act that set the sequester in motion was backed by most congressional Republicans, and argue that Republicans' refusal to increase revenues is what's preventing a deal.
In his interview with the Pilot, Obama attempted to strike a conciliatory tone, saying that both parties needed to compromise.
"Democrats have to understand we're going to need some additional spending cuts, and Republicans have to understand we're going to need some additional revenues," he said.
But McCain and Ayotte said they want to engage in negotiations on sequestration with the president now and criticized him for not actually getting involved.
“The responsibility to avert this crisis is shared, and the time to negotiate a solution is now — not after the November election,” the senators said. “Among our biggest obstacles to doing so is the President’s failure to lead.”