US president formally orders cuts, blames Congress
Reuters and AFPWASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama formally ordered broad cuts in U.S. government spending on Friday night after he and congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal to avert automatic reductions that could dampen economic growth and curb military readiness.
March 3, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
As the United States staggered into another fiscal crisis, the White House predicted that the spending cuts triggered by the inability of Obama and lawmakers to forge a broader deficit-reduction agreement would be “deeply destructive” to the nation's economic and national security.
“Not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain though will be real. Beginning this week, many middle-class families will have their lives disrupted in significant ways,” Obama told journalists after his meeting with GOP and Democratic leaders.
Late on Friday, Obama signed an order that put in effect the across-the-board government spending cuts known as “sequestration.” Government agencies will now begin to hack a total of US$85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and Oct. 1.
Half of the cuts will fall on the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the reductions put at risk “all of our missions.”
Congress and Obama could still halt the cuts in the weeks to come, but neither side has expressed any confidence they will do so. Both Democrats and Republicans set the automatic cuts in motion during feverish efforts in August 2011.
Obama urged Congress Saturday to replace the sequester with what he called “a balanced approach,” which combines “smart” cuts with reforms.
The appeal came the day after the president, complying with the law, signed an order bringing arbitrary cuts worth US$85 billion into force as well as a report by his Office of Management and Budget detailing the cuts to each agency.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, he argued there was still time to find a smarter solution to the nation's debt problem.
“I still believe we can and must replace these cuts with a balanced approach - one that combines smart spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to our tax code that make it more fair for families and businesses without raising anyone's tax rates,” Obama said.