Obama signs bill requiring him to detail budget cuts

Move forces politically awkward choices at campaign height

With as little fanfare as possible, President Obama signed legislation Tuesday requiring him to reveal to Congress within the next 30 days exactly where he would slash defense and domestic spending under automatic budget cuts due to take effect in January.

The White House issued a one-sentence statement Tuesday afternoon signaling that Mr. Obama had signed the bill, known as the Sequestration Transparency Act, into law.

There was no signing ceremony for the legislation, on which lawmakers of both parties had cornered the administration.

The statement was released after press secretary Jay Carney had finished his daily briefing, thereby ensuring he wouldn’t get any questions on camera about the subject.

Deputy White House press secretary Amy Brundage wrote on her Twitter account, “Congress must act to avoid these devastating cuts & ask wealthiest to pay fair share.”

Under the terms of a deficit-reduction agreement reached last summer between the administration and Republican lawmakers, across-the-board cuts of $110 billion are due to be imposed Jan. 2 unless Congress acts before then to modify the deal.

There has been virtually no movement toward a compromise to alter the agreement. In May, the House approved a Republican plan to spare the military and make deeper cuts instead to anti-poverty programs and Mr. Obama’s domestic priorities. But the measure hasn’t found life in the Democrat-led Senate.

The president had until Wednesday to sign the bill, which the House approved by a vote of 414-2 and the Senate passed by unanimous consent.

With the president’s report on unpopular budget cuts due to come out in the midst of the presidential campaign, the details are sure to become fodder for both sides in the race.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican and author of the bill, applauded Mr. Obama for signing the measure into law.

“The American people deserve to know how their commander-in-chief intends to implement half a trillion dollars in cuts to our national security which his own Secretary of Defense compared to ‘shooting ourselves in the head,’” said Mr. Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, in a statement.

“While House Republicans remain committed to achieving the full spending reduction required by the Budget Control Act, we believe that we cannot solve our national debt crisis by deliberately permitting a national defense crisis, which is why we have a plan to replace those arbitrary cuts with other spending cuts and reforms,” he said. “With the sunlight provided by this new law, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to replace these damaging defense cuts and expect the president to work with us.”

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said of the president’s action Tuesday: “It literally took an act of Congress to get the president to explain the consequences of the defense cuts that he insisted be part of the sequester, but as a result, the American people will now have a chance to see what it is the president has in mind for our national security.”

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