Obama, GOP clash over budget solution
By Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal, ReutersWASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to pass a small package of spending cuts and tax reforms to delay larger, automatic cuts from going into effect and damaging the economy on March 1.
February 7, 2013, 11:11 am TWN
Republican leaders quickly rebuffed his proposals, rejecting what they saw as a bid for new tax increases after lawmakers agreed to raise rates for top U.S. earners earlier this year.
If launched as scheduled, the cuts — dubbed the “sequester” — would reduce federal spending across the board by about US$85 billion for one year, split evenly between military and domestic programs. The total of reductions through 2022 would amount to roughly US$1.2 trillion.
Obama said he still believed a broad, balanced plan to achieve US$4 trillion in deficit reduction was possible, and he said his proposals to do so during fiscal cliff talks with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner last year were still on the table.
With only a few weeks before the spending cuts go into force, however, Obama urged lawmakers to agree to a small package now that would avert economic damage and give them more time to negotiate a broader deal.
“So if Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package ... 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,” Obama told reporters.
“Congress is already working towards a budget that would permanently replace the sequester. At the very least, we should give them the chance to come up with this budget, instead of making indiscriminate cuts now that will cost us jobs and significantly slow down our recovery,” he said.
The budget deficit for fiscal 2013 will dip to US$845 billion after four straight years of US$1 trillion-plus deficits, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday, largely because of the higher taxes being paid by wealthy Americans. The analysis assumes that the US$85 billion in spending cuts that Obama wants to avoid will go into effect on March 1.
Reactions from Republicans suggested that was likely.
“Sorry, President Obama, but no more tax increases for even more government spending,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey in a statement. “We should keep our word to the American people and keep the spending cuts you signed into law.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped secure the deal that avoided the fiscal cliff, said Obama needed to lay out specific spending cut ideas and abandon his tax push.
“The American people will not support more tax hikes in place of the meaningful spending reductions both parties already agreed to and the president signed into law,” McConnell said in a statement. “Now that Congress has acted on the tax issue, the president needs to lay out significant spending reforms — the other side of the 'balance' as he defines it,” he said