Standing in front of first responders who he says could lose their jobs, President Obama pushed Tuesday for Congress to act now to avoid $85 billion in "automatic, severe budget cuts" set to kick in starting on March 1.
The cuts due because of the so-called sequestration "are not smart, they are not fair [and] they will hurt our economy," the president said.
He painted a picture of "border patrol agents' hour reduced ... FBI agents furloughed ... federal prosecutors [closing] cases and letting criminals go ... [and] thousands of teachers and educators [being] laid off" as government spending is cut.
If lawmakers can't agree on a plan to avoid the automatic cuts, Obama said, they should at least pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms ... to give them time to work together on a plan that finishes the job of deficit reduction in a sensible way."
He charged that Republicans would rather see the automatic cuts go into effect than close "special interest loopholes." They would "rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk," Obama said.
Republicans don't see things that way. Before the president spoke, the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released these statements:
-- "GOP has long supported closing tax loopholes in order to simplify code, create jobs, expand opportunity for all. POTUS wants to spend more."
-- "GOP agrees the sequester is wrong way to reduce the deficit; but only the House has voted (twice) to replace it http://j.mp/VeNZVU."
-- "Will POTUS finally outline a plan today to replace his sequester w/responsible cuts that put us on a path to balance the budget in 10 years?"