(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama blamed Republicans on Saturday for $85 billion in automatic budget cuts over the next seven months, saying the GOP is unwilling to help reduce the federal debt by raising taxes on the wealthy.
"It's happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit," Obama said in his weekly radio address.
Republicans returned the favor, saying Obama would rather raise taxes than cut major spending programs.
"The American people know full well that if they give this White House more tax revenue, it will be spent on new stimulus projects and government programs," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the GOP radio address.
The parties hit the airwaves a day after Obama and congressional leaders met at the White House but did not strike a deal to avert the automatic cuts known as the sequester, $85 billion in both domestic and defense programs.
In his radio address, Obama said the cuts will "inflict pain on communities across the country," costing jobs and slowing growth.
Thousands of federal employees, including Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, and Defense Department employees, face furloughs and lost wages, Obama said. The cuts will hurt programs for education, research, and defense.
The White House, working with its Office of Management and Budget, have notified Congress and others of specific items within the $85 billion to be cut over the next seven months, the remainder of the current fiscal year. Letters are also going to out to governors, grantees and others who receive federal money.
The parties did appear to make progress on avoiding another potential budget standoff down the road -- the March 27 expiration of the continuing resolution that is funding the government; failing to renew it would lead to a budget shutdown.
In statements after Friday's White House meeting, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed optimism that the spending resolution would be extended and a shutdown avoided.
On Saturday, Obama echoed his call for a "balanced" budget plan to reduce the federal debt that now exceeds $16.5 trillion. His plan includes both spending cuts -- including reforms to Medicare and other entitlement programs -- as well as eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy.
"That's how we can reduce our deficit without laying off workers, or forcing parents and students to pay the price," Obama said.
Republicans said Obama got higher income tax rates as part of the January agreement to end the last budget impasse, the so-called fiscal cliff.
"Instead of campaigning for higher taxes, the president should lead an effort to begin addressing our nation's spending problem," said Rodgers, who chairs the House Republican Conference.
The sequester originated as part of a 2011 agreement to break yet another Obama-Republican budget impasse, raising the debt ceiling.
The idea: Require a series of automatic cuts, split between defense and domestic programs, so onerous that the parties would be forced to come up with a plan to cut more than $1 trillion off the debt in 10 years. They have failed to do that.