"If Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package," Obama said Tuesday, "if they can't get a bigger package done by the time the sequester is scheduled to go into effect, then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution."
Following last month's agreement on a temporary extension of the federal debt limit, Congress is confronted with the prospect of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts -- called sequestration -- scheduled to begin March 1.
The cuts would slice equally across defense and domestic spending and take substantial government funding out of the economy.
The president said the country is headed in the right direction economically, and said it will "stay that way as long as there are no more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington."
Obama said the government can achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction economists say is needed but for that to happen, "modest reforms in our [social] insurance programs have to go hand in hand with" closing tax "loopholes and deductions."
He said the House and Senate "are working toward what I hope is a balanced approach" of cuts and revenue.
After Obama spoke, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters if Congress "is not able to or willing to act immediately on this bigger deal -- which would eliminate the sequester entirely as well as achieve all those other important objectives like $4 trillion in deficit reduction, like continued investment in our economy to make sure it continues to create jobs and grow -- we need to not engage in a process where Washington is inflicting a wound on the economy unnecessarily"
"And that's what would happen if the so-called sequester were to be allowed to kick in on March 1," he said. "Because we have relatively little time between now and March 1, the president believes ... Congress ought to take action to buy down the sequester in a balanced way -- which we actually just did in December so we know what the model looks like to achieve it. ... We would work with Congress on the composition of that package."