Obama blames Republicans for failing to stop sequester

In his weekly address on Saturday, Obama said the $85 billion sequester went into effect late Friday because congressional Republicans refused to compromise.

"These cuts are not smart," Obama said.

"They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time — as soon as both sides are willing to compromise."

Democrats are pressing for offsetting the spending cuts through a combination of increased taxes and replacement spending cuts.

Obama said he thinks the cuts can be replaced by combining a different set of spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to the tax code, without raising anyone’s tax rates.

"A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach, including a majority of Republicans. We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country," he said.

Republicans remain adamant that no tax hikes be used to replace the spending cuts.

Obama called the spending cuts unnecessary, adding that they are only happening because "Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit."

Still, he argued, there is a "caucus of common sense."

"And I’m going to keep reaching out to them to fix this for good."

Obama pointed to a recovering economy and an improving labor market where jobs are still tough to get while arguing that "the last thing Washington should do is to get in their way."

Letting the sequester take effect is "inexcusable" when people are still looking for work, he said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the spending cuts could cost 750,000 jobs this year.

The president and congressional leaders met at the White House on Friday and failed to reach a solution.

"Now, it’s important to understand that, while not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away, the pain will be real," Obama said.

He said the Pentagon will lay off workers and others, including Border Patrol and FBI agents as well as civilians who work for the Defense Department, will see lower wages and their hours reduced.

"This will cause a ripple effect across the economy," Obama said.

He also vowed to push for improved preschool opportunities, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, improved transportation and gun control measures, all initiatives he included in his State of the Union address.