Back at the White House after his golf weekend in Florida, President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning took sharp aim at a Congress on recess just 10 days before what he called “brutal” across-the-board cuts take effect.
Speaking in front of a backdrop of “first responders,” Obama warned that the cuts would put thousands of people on the unemployment rolls and might cause the unemployment rate to tick up again if Congress fails to act.
“These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy,” he said. He warned that every FBI agent would be furloughed and that border patrol agents would have their hours cut back, among myriad other cuts.
Obama again trained his aim on Congressional Republicans, marking their choice as agreeing to a balanced compromise of smarter spending cuts and eliminating tax loopholes or owning the resulting damage the sequester would have across the country.
It was a continuation of the White House strategy since winning tax rate hikes on the wealthy alongside permanent middle- class tax relief during the fiscal cliff deal.
And while the idea for a sequester came out of the White House in 2011 — to both resolve the debt limit crisis sparked by Republicans and pressure them to accept tax hikes — Obama placed the blame for the cuts squarely on Congress.
“It seems like every three months around here, there’s some manufactured crisis,” Obama said, adding that the economy does not need any more self-inflicted wounds.
Some would “rather have these cuts go into effect than close a single loophole. Not one,” he said. “I will not sign a plan that harms the middle class.”
And while Obama said he’s willing to work with anybody to solve the problem, Republicans were not amused.
“President says his door is open, but he’s spent more time in 2013 with Tiger Woods than with all Congressional Republicans,” tweeted Doug Heye, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a reference to Obama’s round over the weekend with the golf star. The White House refused press access to Woods and the president.
Speaker John A. Boehner said Obama still hasn’t offered a “credible plan that can pass Congress” and that the debate over revenue “is now closed” after the fiscal cliff deal. The Ohio Republican said his party wants to close loopholes, too, but the resulting revenue should be used to lower tax rates. “It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending,” he said.
Republicans have also repeatedly complained that the White House first suggested the sequester, while Democrats have said the sequester was proposed as a way to meet GOP demands that spending cuts accompany any debt limit hike. House Republicans last year passed bills to replace it. The Senate has so far not acted, but Democrats hope to have a vote on their plan next week.