US president Barack Obama on Tuesday stepped up pressure on Congress to postpone drastic spending cuts that come into effect 10 days from now, next Friday.
If the cuts happen, the president warned at a campaign-style event, the axe will fall on emergency responders, air-traffic controllers, all federal employees.
The government will have to cut spending by $85 billion from March 1. According to one estimate these automatic cuts — called sequester in Washington politics — may cause the loss of 700,000 jobs.
Obama said: “These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.”
“Replacing the president’s sequester will require a plan to cut spending that will put us on the path to a budget that is balanced in 10 years,” said House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican.
Republicans have said sequester as an idea was introduced by the White House in 2011. Come up with a plan to deal with it or watch those cuts happen, they argue.
The spending cuts were intended to be so drastic and distasteful that no one would want them, and would thus be compelled to do whatever it takes to prevent it.
To prevent it, the White House and Congress must commit to a deficit reduction plan, balancing the budget over the next decade or so, which has proved difficult.
When pressed for information on who in Congress was the White House talking to, press secretary Jay Carney said, “We don’t read out every phone call or every meeting, but we are working with Congress on all of these priorities.”