Obama Asks Congress To Put Aside 'Political Dysfunction' To Pass Sequester Delay

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US Congress
Congress is out on recess all of August but will have to move swiftly in September to pass a bill to fund the government.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to pass a small package of spending cuts and tax reform initiatives to delay the automatic spending cuts, known as the "sequester," that are scheduled to kick in next month, in the event that both the House and Senate are not able to pass a budget before March 1.

The president, during an impromptu White House press conference, said his primary goal is to “avoid the economically harmful consequences of a sequester for the next few months.” To meet that goal, Obama stressed that lawmakers need to pass a small series of modest spending cuts, as well as tax reforms, to close loopholes and deductions primarily benefiting corporations and the wealthy.

Any savings from those reforms should go toward paying down the federal budget deficit, Obama said.

“The economy is going in the right direction, and will stay that way as long as there aren’t any more self-inflicted wounds from Washington,” Obama said, explaining that the deep cuts that would result from the sequester would likely result in enormous job losses and could tip the nation back into a recession.

Approximately $85 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to begin on March 1 and run through Sept. 30. Another $110 billion in annual cuts would also begin on Oct. 1 and continue for eight years.

The scheduled cuts would affect defense spending, as well as domestic programs such as education, transportation and housing. It would also lower some payments to Medicare providers.

Obama said the proposals he made in December to reduce social safety benefits with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “are still on the table.”  In those talks, Obama had agreed to change the way costs would be adjusted for inflation in government programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated there could be a 0.7 percent decline in GDP growth this year if the automatic spending cuts go through. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, it could lead to the loss of 1 million jobs between 2013 and 2014.

“We have seen the effects that political dysfunction can have,” Obama said, urging Congress to pass those reforms to avoid the sequester. “It will cost us jobs and hurt our economy.”

“We have seen the effects that political dysfunction can have,” Obama said, urging Congress to pass those reforms to avoid the sequester. “It will cost us jobs and hurt our economy.”

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