The White House is ramping up its warnings about the automatic spending cuts scheduled to hit March 1, warning it would lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses, furloughs and impaired government services across the government with fewer food safety inspectors, children in Head Start and FBI agents on the beat.
“There is no question that we need to cut the deficit, but the President believes it should be done in a balanced way that protects investments that the middle class relies on,” the White House said in a 2,000-word fact sheet detailing the cuts.
“Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. Our economy is poised to take off but we cannot afford a self-inflicted wound from Washington. We cannot simply cut our way to prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable cuts-only approach, the middle class risks paying the price.”
White House officials declined to say their preference for the ratio of cuts to revenue in any short-term package, like the one President Barack Obama suggested was needed earlier this week. Nor has the White House proposed a package of its own. But Obama said a short-term delay for the next several months would give Congress more time to reach a bigger budget bargain.
Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said only that the package must be “balanced” and said the ratio would be something less than the 1:1 ratio the president suggested in his December fiscal cliff offer to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. That’s because the president has since then gotten more than $600 billion in revenue without any cuts, Furman noted, and he reiterated that the larger offer remains on the table.
Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to issue a formal veto threat over GOP plans to offer a cuts-only package, but he said that balance was “essential” to a deal. And he dismissed Republican efforts to blame the sequester on the White House as a “fanciful confection.” Carney noted that Republicans celebrated the August 2011 deal on the debt limit, which created the sequester as an incentive for lawmakers to craft a broader deficit reduction package. That broader plan never materialized. But at the time of the debt limit agreement, Boehner bragged he got 98 percent of what he wanted, and the White House endorsed it as a means of ending a crisis that nearly saw the country default on its obligations for the first time in its history.
As both parties try to find a new way to avert the sequester this year, Republicans have taken to calling it the “president’s sequester,” and have said they would oppose any new revenue.
Furman and Danny Werfel, the federal controller for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, warned the impact on federal services and the larger economy would be severe if no deal is reached.
Werfel said hundreds of thousands of federal employees would have to be furloughed, although agencies would have some discretion over exactly when the cuts would take place. Agencies under the law could wait to implement cuts in hopes that Congress reaches a deal, but Werfel warned “hope” wouldn’t be enough, and they would have to plan to ensure the $85 billion cut takes place by Sept. 30.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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