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President Barack Obama said Friday that he would not risk a government shutdown in an effort to avert the sequester, even as he continued to pressure Republican leaders to budge.
Obama called the sequester cuts that will kick in later Friday “unnecessary” and “inexcusable,” but said that they would not result in an apocalypse or a financial crisis.
“We will get through this,” he said. “... It’s just dumb.”
Obama said he would sign a continuing resolution if Republicans kept the same spending levels agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act, but acknowledged that the sequester would still kick in.
“I think it’s the right thing to do to make sure that we don’t have a government shutdown,” Obama said.
He said he agreed to the spending levels two years ago and doesn’t see a need to reopen that agreement.
“Until Congress takes the sequester away, we’d have to abide by those additional cuts, but there’s no reason why we should have another crisis by shutting the government down in addition to these arbitrary cuts,” Obama said.
After a meeting in which Republicans vowed not to give an inch on new revenue, Obama said he hopes they will as the sequester kicks in.
The president said that he understands Speaker John A. Boehner has strong opposition in his conference to allowing any more revenue now.
“My hope is, that they can do it later,” the president said.
He said that there is a “caucus of common sense” on Capitol Hill in both parties willing to accept both entitlement cuts and new revenue, but “it is a silent group right now.”
He said he hopes to reach out to them in coming weeks.
Obama’s warning about the sequester seemed more subdued than at a series of recent events across the country warning of the impacts, but he insisted it would cost 750,000 jobs and knock as much as 0.5 percent off of GDP this year.
“We’re not making that up. That’s not a scare tactic. That’s a fact,” Obama said of the economic impact.
Obama at several points mused whether there was something more he could do to convince the GOP to compromise.
“Sometimes I reflect, you know, is there something else I could do to make ... some of the House Republican caucus members not — not paint horns on my head?”
Obama joked people seem to think he should perform a “Jedi mind-meld” with the GOP to get them to agree, in an apparent mixed metaphor, and at another point rhetorically asked the reporters in the room for advice.
Obama also kept up his attack line against the GOP.
“They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”
Earlier, Republican leaders again ruled out new revenue.
And Obama separately said that he doesn’t want the budget battles to stop the rest of his agenda, saying that he would continue to push immigration, gun control, early childhood education and infrastructure improvements, among other items.
He also addressed his administration’s decision to weigh in against California’s Proposition 8 law banning same-sex marriage.
“We cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to marriage,” Obama said, noting his decision to change positions on the issue last year after a long period of reflection.