President Barack Obama will propose a package of short-term spending cuts and tax reforms in an effort to head off the looming automatic, across-the-board sequester cuts Tuesday at 1:15 p.m., a White House official tells POLITICO.
"Given that the budget process in Congress won't likely be completed by March 1," the official said, the proposal "will allow Congress more time to reach a solution that permanently avoids the sequester and significantly reduces the deficit in a balanced way."
The president will call on Congress to make the cuts in a 1:15 p.m. speech at the White House.
"Uncertainty around the sequester is already having a negative impact on our economic growth, and if it was to take effect it would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs and have devastating impacts on our economy," a White House official said in a statement. "The President will urge Congress to come together and act to ensure these devastating cuts to defense and job-creating programs don't take effect."
The sequester was part of the Budget Control Act passed by Congress and signed by the president in 2011, and was set to take effect if Congress could not agree on a set of cuts totaling $1.2 trillion. It was billed as a trigger to force agreement, but no agreement materialized. The cuts, set to take effect in just over three weeks, will slash defense and non-defense spending.
"The sequester was never intended to be policy, but was meant to force Congress to act to further reduce the deficit in a balanced way," the White House official said, noting that Obama presented an offer to avoid the cuts to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in December.
That offer, pilloried by the GOP, included a mix of cuts and revenue from tax reform.
Boehner signaled that he was not interested in a deal that would raise tax revenue, even temporarily. In a statement Tuesday, he blamed Obama for the creation of the sequester, saying the president is the one who "insisted it become law" and noting that House Republicans have already passed bills that would have averted the cuts. The Senate has not acted on those bills.
"Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense," Boehner said. "We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes. 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."
The president, however, is hoping to gain a political advantage by continuing to press his case in the court of public opinion.
"While we need to deal with our deficits over the long term, we shouldn't have workers being laid off, kids kicked off Head Start, and food safety inspections cut while Congress completes the process," the White House official said. "With our economy poised to continue to strengthen this year, the president will make clear that we can't see another self-inflicted wound from Washington."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the year the Budget Control Act was passed. It was passed in 2011.
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