Immigrants released, Obama cites Navy threat as cuts loom
By Mark Felsenthal, ReutersNEWPORT NEWS, Virginia -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned of threats to Navy readiness and a storm broke over the government releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants due to budget pressure as automatic government spending cuts crept closer.
February 28, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
In the latest event staged by the White House to warn of the possible damage to public services, Obama spoke at the Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard where scheduled maintenance to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has been delayed due to the budget crisis.
“The threat of these cuts has already forced the Navy to cancel the deployment, or delay the repair of certain aircraft carriers. One that's currently being built might not get finished,” he warned.
The US$85 billion across-the-board budget cuts are due to begin on Friday, and might eventually force the government to scale back on a host of services such as air traffic control, law enforcement and food safety inspections.
“These cuts are wrong. They are not smart, they're not fair. They are a self-inflicted wound that doesn't have to happen,” he told workers in Newport News, Virginia.
In a move that was criticized by Republicans as a dangerous political stunt, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency released several hundred detained illegal immigrants in order to save money in preparation for the cuts.
An agreement in Congress would halt the cuts, but with days to go before the ax starts to fall the two parties do not agree on what to replace them with. There have been hardly any budget talks between the two parties since New Year.
Republicans seek different, more targeted, spending cuts than entailed in “sequestration,” as the automatic cuts are known in Washington budget parlance. They complain that Obama is overplaying worries about sequestration to promote long-held plans to close tax loopholes.