Seeking to avoid $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that begin to kick in Friday, President Obama urged the nation's governors Monday to lean on congressional Republicans to accept more tax increases as part of a deal that he said would save Americans from economic harm.
"Unfortunately in just four days, Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts to kick in that will slow our economy," Mr. Obama told the governors at the White House. "These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise."
The so-called "sequester cuts" will begin to hit defense and certain social programs unless lawmakers and the White House agree on a solution to postpone them.
The Senate is preparing to vote this week on a Democratic plan that promises $110 billion in alternative revenues and savings to buy time to work out a larger deficit deal, including at least corporate tax reform. But the administration has yet to reach any agreement with the Republican-led House.
The president said the impact of the cuts "will not all be felt on Day One."
"But rest assured the uncertainty is already having an effect," Mr. Obama said. "Companies are preparing layoff notices, families are preparing to cut back on expenses. The longer these cuts are in place, the bigger the impact will become. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to deal with finding child care for their children."
Mr. Obama said he has agreed in principle to trim Medicare spending, but he said Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner must agree to raising tax revenue by closing loopholes and other reforms that were part of a proposed deal late last year.
"We also need Republicans to adopt the same approach to tax reform that Speaker Boehner championed just two months ago," Mr. Obama said. "As governors, you know that compromise is essential to getting things done."
If the cuts were to take effect, defense programs would be cut by more than 7 percent and nondefense by about 5 percent. Some Republicans say the president is scaring the public deliberately over cuts that need not be so painful.
"There's easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel," said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, on "Fox News Sunday." "Some of it's not smart, but it's the only way … that you are ever going to get out of both parties some spending cuts."
The White House released a report Sunday showing that the effects of the so-called sequester cuts will extend far beyond non-essential government workers and programs. For example, the cuts would threaten 350 teaching jobs in Ohio, result in 4,180 fewer children in Georgia receiving vaccines, and cancel maintenance on 11 Navy ships docked in Norfolk, Va.
Mr. Obama will travel Tuesday to a shipyard in Newport News, Va., to call attention to the impact of the cuts.
First lady Michelle Obama also urged the governors to take action to ensure that veterans returning from the war in Afghanistan can get certified to work in fields such as medicine and transportation. She said it's important for the government to be "standing with them and their families when they come home."
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