Obama press secretary: 'Answer is no' to changing automatic spending cuts

"The president has been very clear on this. The answer is no. The sequester was designed to be so onerous to have the kind of cuts that were so objectionable to members of both parties in Congress that they would never come to pass. That they would force Congress to work hard and reach a compromise that was responsible and balanced to reduce our deficit and deal with our long term debt challenge," said Carney on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" Wednesday.

The automatic cuts to defense spending, Medicare and other programs, known as sequestration, were included to provide an incentive for members of the congressional supercommittee to reach a compromise on a mandate to find $1.2 trillion or more in savings over the next 10 years, a result of the protracted fight over the summer about the federal debt ceiling. They are set to take effect in January 2013.

"The president believes the very nature of the sequester needs to stay the same to keep the pressure on Congress to do its job," added Carney.

The failure of the supercommittee prompted leading Republicans to propose a reconfiguration of the automatic cuts, which they say weigh too heavily on defense spending.

Although the Obama administration has continued to insist that it won't agree to any changes, Assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) raised the possibility Tuesday that the structure of the sequester could be negotiated as part of a deal to extend the payroll tax cuts.

"I don't think we're locked into sequester in its current format. ... I don't think that we should close out negotiating or trying to reach a compromise on anything. That is how our government has operated the past. That's how our country has gotten to be what it is," Clyburn said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" Tuesday.