President Obama: Flexibility Won't Help With Spending Cuts
President Barack Obama says there's no way to make automatic budget cuts less damaging by giving him the authority to decide what to cut.
Obama says at a shipbuilding site in Virginia that there's no smart way to cut $85 billion from the budget in seven months. He says the country shouldn't be choosing which poor kids should get services or which shipyards should close.
Senate Republicans have suggested giving Obama the flexibility to decide which programs and government functions to cut, instead of letting across-the-board cuts kick in Friday.
Obama is singling out for praise Republicans who have expressed openness to including new revenues from closing loopholes in a deal to avert the cuts.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say the billions of dollars in defense budget cuts scheduled to begin at the end of the week will have a swift and severe impact on military readiness and they urged Congress to take fast action to stop the reductions.
Testifying Tuesday before a House subcommittee, the uniformed leaders of the military branches described how national security would be put at risk if they are forced to make deep decreases in spending for personnel, training, and equipment modernization programs.
The budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Friday. The Pentagon faces a $46 billion budget reduction through the end of September, and billions of dollars in additional cuts would come in future years as long as the sequester remains in effect.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner is using salty language to prod the Senate to act on legislation to replace automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.
Boehner complained at a news conference Tuesday that the House has twice passed bills that would replace the across-the-board cuts with more targeted reductions, while the Senate has not acted.
Senate Democrats have unveiled a package that would replace the sequester with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The Senate could act on a bill later this week, though it is unlikely to pass because Republicans oppose the tax hikes.
A frustrated Boehner told reporters, quote, "We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something." (AP)
Nevada Senator Harry Reid delivered these remarks today on the U.S. Senate floor:
Today the Senate will vote for a second time to move forward with the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel – a Republican – to serve as Secretary of Defense. Twelve days ago, Republicans mounted a first-of-its-kind filibuster of Senator Hagel's confirmation. Senator Hagel is the first nominee for Secretary of Defense to be filibustered in the history of the United States.
And what has their filibuster gained my Republican colleagues? Twelve days later, nothing has changed. Twelve days later, Senator Hagel's exemplary record of service to his country remains untarnished. Twelve days later, President Obama's support for this qualified nominee is still strong. Twelve days later, the majority of Senators still support his confirmation.
Senate Republicans have delayed for the better part of two weeks for one reason and one reason only: partisanship. At a time when our nation faces threats abroad, the President's nominee for Secretary of Defense deserves a fair and constructive confirmation process.
Politically-motivated delays send a terrible signal to our allies and to the world. And they send a terrible signal to tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan. For the sake of national security, it's time to set aside this partisanship.
In three days, across-the-board cuts to defense spending are scheduled to take effect. The Pentagon needs a seasoned leader to implement those cuts.
Democrats are working hard to avert the worst of these arbitrary cuts – cuts for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress voted.
We have a balanced proposal to replace those across-the-board cuts for this year with smart spending reductions, measures that close corporate tax loopholes and end wasteful subsidies and revenue from the very wealthiest among us – Americans making millions of dollars each year.
It is critical that Republicans and Democrats come together to find a balanced way to avert these drastic cuts. The consequences of the so-called sequester are real – not only for our national defense, but for millions of American families and businesses. More than 750,000 American jobs are at stake.
Across the country, tens of thousands of teachers, including thousands who work with disabled children, could be laid off. Seventy thousand children would be dropped from Head Start. And 373,000 adults living with serious mental illnesses and children dealing with severe emotional problems will go untreated.
Airports will close, due to a shortage of air traffic controllers. And lines at the airports that do stay open will stretch out the door, as TSA workers are furloughed. At the airport in Las Vegas, through which 40 million tourists from around the world travel each year, security lines will take an hour longer than they do today.
And from coast to coast, hundreds of thousands of civilian employees of the Department of Defense will face furloughs that will devastate their families and devastate our economy.
These effects won't be felt all at once. They will be cumulative, and they will be painful.
Democrats want to work with Republicans to find a balanced, responsible way to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, Republicans are standing in the way of a solution. They would sacrifice 750,000 American jobs rather than ask multi-millionaires to pay a penny more.
But three-quarters of Americans – including 56 percent of Republicans – are crying out for a balanced approach. With only three days left to protect American families and our economic recovery from this latest crisis, it's time for Republicans to work toward a solution instead of being part of the problem.
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