President Barack Obama said if congressional negotiators cannot draft a full budget by March 1, they should at least come up with a short-term combination of spending cuts and revenue increases in order to stave off deep federal spending cuts scheduled for that date.
"If Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package, if they can't get a bigger package done by the time the sequester is scheduled to go into effect," Obama said, "then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution."
Charles Dharapak / AP
President Barack Obama turns towards cameramen and reacts to a sound as he speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.
The sequester, reached as part of 2011 budget negotiations, was never actually supposed to take effect. Rather, its deep cuts, including almost $500 billion in defense spending over nine years, were put in place as a trigger to get Congress to agree to more comprehensive budget and tax reform.
House Speaker John Boehner released a written statement before Obama’s remarks, blaming the president for the sequester and saying he would not support any additional revenue increases.
“President Obama first proposed the sequester and insisted it become law,” Boehner said, adding, “We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes."
In recent weeks, members of Congress appeared to be playing rhetorical chicken over the cuts, with some suggesting they were resigned to the across-the-board cuts.
“I think it’s more likely to happen,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was quoted as saying by the Washington Post last week.
But the White House has stood firm on the self-imposed cuts, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney underscoring Friday that the sequester was always intended to be replaced.
“The negative consequences of implementation would be bad across the board," Carney said. "That's the point. So Congress needs to do its job."
And the president hinted that revenues would remain central to all budget negotiations, telling CBS in a Sunday interview that “there is no doubt we need additional revenue coupled with smart spending reductions in order to bring down our deficit."