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Obama: 'These mindless cuts have to end'

Obama: 'These mindless cuts have to end'

President Obama on Tuesday said congressional Republicans must end the “reckless cuts” under sequestration that are hurting the U.S. military.

“That’s not the way to keep our armed forces ready,” he said in a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Pittsburgh. “These mindless cuts have to end.”

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The president said lawmakers have two paths forward on the budget.

The first would be keeping the spending ceilings under sequester in place and using “gimmicks” to fund the military and “shortchange” counterterrorism efforts.

“I got to be honest, that’s what the Republican budget does,” Obama told the audience.

The other option, he said, would be for both sides of the aisle to come together to hammer out a budget “that protects our national security and our economic security.” 

The president repeated his call to GOP leaders to come to the negotiating table and work out a compromise that would raise spending levels across the federal budget and not just for the Defense Department.

“We shouldn’t be playing partisan politics when it comes to national security,” he said.

Obama also repeated his vow to veto any legislation that “locks in” sequestration.

The White House and Capitol Hill are in a standoff over $38 billion Republicans added to the Pentagon’s war account. The boost would allow the DoD to skirt existing budget caps, while leaving them in place for other agencies — something Obama and congressional Democrats say they will not accept.

Obama said the sequester caps hurt the Veterans Affairs Department, which is still working to overcome last year’s scandal over patient times and falsified records. 

He demanded the GOP approve a VA request to move around $3 billion in its budget by the end of this month so that the agency wouldn’t be forced to shutter some of its hospitals.

Obama told the crowd that he had not forgotten about the problems that arose during last year’s scandal at the VA.

"I want you to know I'm still not satisfied. Bob's still not satisfied. We're not going to let up," Obama said, referring to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.