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Obama blames GOP for sequester stall

Feb. 26, 2013 at 3:40 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told Newport News, Va., shipyard workers drastic budget cuts due to kick in Friday will weaken the economy.

"The sequester will weaken America's economic recovery. It will weaken our military readiness, and it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every day," he said Tuesday afternoon in an address at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Among the shipyard's projects is building aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford and USS John F. Kennedy, a White House press statement noted.

Obama blamed Republicans in Congress for forcing the sequester issue into its final hours.

"There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks. That's what's holding things up right now," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Tuesday for Democrats in the Senate to "get off their ass" and act to prevent the cuts.

"We have moved a bill in the House twice," Boehner told a press conference following a meeting of the Republican Conference.

"We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something."

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One Obama would be meeting with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the White House later Tuesday and the sequester was expected to be among the topics.

Boehner's comments added to the chorus of Republican lawmakers calling for Obama to work with Congress to avert $85 billion in budget cuts instead of trumpeting how bad the cuts will be, NBC News reported.

"This is not time for a road-show president," House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told a news conference as Obama headed for Newport News, Va., to highlight the effects of the cuts on the military-driven local economy.

Obama has called for a "balanced plan" that includes some domestic program cuts, benefit program savings and additional tax revenue collected from some corporations and high-income people.

Republicans have said any plan that would collect more taxes is dead in the water.

"If the president was serious, he'd sit down with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and begin to address our problems," Boehner said.

The sequester is the Washington term for across-the-board federal domestic and military spending cuts passed by Congress that will be triggered automatically Friday unless lawmakers intervene.

The cuts -- established as part of the 2011 deal to raise the federal debt limit -- represent 2 percent to 3 percent of the government's annual $3.5 trillion budget, and big-ticket programs such as Social Security and Medicare benefits are exempt from them.

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