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President Obama calls on Congress to avoid sequester

1:17 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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President Barack Obama. (Getty Images)

By David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama called on Congress Tuesday to avoid a series of automatic major budget cuts next month by passing a short-term budget plan this month.

Big cuts to defense and education programs "will cost us jobs and slow down our economy," Obama said at the White House.

Facing a March 1 deadline, Obama called for a small package of spending cuts and tax revenue increases as a short-term stopgap.

The president is still looking for a major debt reduction deal for the long tern of more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, saying that earlier ideas are "still on the table."

The president also renewed his call for a "balanced" approach to reducing the nation's $16.4 trillion debt, a plan that includes more tax revenues as well as budget cuts.

Obama has said he will not call for higher income tax rates on the wealthy, which were part of the fiscal cliff deal reached with Congress last month; instead, he has proposed closing tax loopholes and ending certain deductions that benefit the rich.

In an interview Sunday with CBS News, Obama said that even the threat of the sequester has slowed economic growth in recent months.

"Washington cannot continually operate under a cloud of crisis," Obama said. "We can't afford these self-inflicted wounds."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the GOP-run House supports a package of tax cuts, but Obama and other Democrats have objected to them. Boehner also said that, given the tax hikes in the fiscal cliff deal, debt reduction moving forward should involve only spending cuts.

"Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement. "The president's sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years."


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