* Speaks to eight TV anchors from across America
* Pentagon to describe plans for layoffs
* Obama will also talk about infrastructure spending plan
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 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
Obama scheduled interviews with television stations in eight
markets, most of which have a strong military presence, on a day
when the Pentagon was set to describe its plans for laying off
some 800,000 civilian employees for 22 days to save money.
The interviews are part of an administration strategy to lay
blame for the job losses on Republicans, who control the House
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 Sept. 30 as part of a decade-long
$1.2 trillion budget savings plan agreed in 2011.
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 will talk to local anchors in Boston, Baltimore,
Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Honolulu, San Antonio, Charleston,
South Carolina, and Wichita, Kansas, in interviews set to air
during the evening news.
"The president will have an opportunity to focus on the
harmful local impacts that will be felt if congressional
Republicans refuse to compromise," a White House official said.
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 "sequestration" battle 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.
On Wednesday, he will provide more details 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
Most of that money would go to roads, bridges and airports
that have postponed maintenance projects, the White House said.
But any new spending will face an uphill battle in Congress.
Obama also will talk about a plan to cut the time it takes
to review and provide permits for projects like roads, bridges,
railways, ports and pipelines, the White House said.