Obama turns to local TV to press Republicans to avert cuts

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:32pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama talks against automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect next week, while in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks against automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect next week, while in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama turned to local television stations across the United States on Wednesday to increase public pressure on congressional Republicans to avert $85 billion in budget cuts set to begin in nine days.

Obama scheduled interviews with television stations in eight media markets, most of which have a strong military presence, on a day when the Pentagon described its plans for laying off some 800,000 civilian employees for 22 days to save money.

"These automatic spending cuts were designed to be avoided. The idea was that Democrats and Republicans would come together with a sensible deficit-reduction program," Obama said in an interview with Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.

The interviews are part of an administration strategy to lay blame for the job losses on Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.

Unless Obama and Republicans reach a deal, about $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will kick in at the beginning of March and continue through September 30 as part of a decade-long $1.2 trillion budget savings plan agreed by policymakers in 2011.

Not even the operations of the White House will be spared, an administration official said. "We anticipate significant disruption to our operations and mission, which could include furloughs," said the official, who did not provide further details.

Obama has said he wants Congress to end tax loopholes enjoyed mainly by the wealthy to buy lawmakers enough time to pass a budget, but Republicans are insisting on deeper spending cuts to reduce the $16 trillion national debt.

Obama also talked to local TV news anchors in Baltimore, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Honolulu, San Antonio, Charleston, South Carolina, and Wichita, Kansas.

Congress is not in session this week and is not expected to reach a deal by the March 1 deadline. Instead, lawmakers will work on a deal to fund government agencies later in the month.

The battle over "sequestration" - the name for the automatic spending cuts - is the latest in a series of fights between Obama and Republicans over the nation's deficit.

Obama also has tried to lay the groundwork for a broader economic strategy and argued the government should invest in infrastructure and manufacturing to help address a stubbornly high unemployment rate.

Obama was also slated to talk to the news anchors about a $50 billion spending plan he discussed in his State of the Union address last week that the White House is calling "Fix It First."

Most of that money would go to roads, bridges and airports where officials have postponed maintenance projects, the White House said. But any new spending will face an uphill battle in Congress.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell, David Storey and Philip Barbara)

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Comments (19)
Harry079 wrote:
“about $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will kick in at the beginning of March”

Funny thing is that is the exact amount of money the FED spends EVERY MONTH just to support the equity markets and near zero interest rates.

Go figure.

Feb 20, 2013 11:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
USA4 wrote:
this guy is absolutely shameless. the ‘sequester’ was his idea! He has proposed nothing that can be cut from the budget- and that is patently ridiculous. he is a complete disgrace, and has no credibility or leadership ability.

Feb 20, 2013 12:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Heatlf wrote:
I say the government doesn’t seem to be working too hard and waits until the last minute to make any kind of decisions.How about they take the pay cuts and put their money where their mouths are. We have people barely making anything getting their jobs cut and bills are stacking up on them. Meanwhile the high and mighty wipe their bums with dollar bills. Let’s see if they can make it on a low income salary and let them be sequestered to start with… That would at least be more than just a drop in the bucket.

Feb 20, 2013 1:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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