* 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
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
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 by policymakers in
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
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
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