'These cuts do not have to happen,' Obama says
February 25th, 2013
12:43 PM ET
5 years ago

'These cuts do not have to happen,' Obama says

(CNN) - In his latest push to pressure Congress before a series of massive, across-the-board forced spending cuts kick in on Friday, President Barack Obama is bringing state governors into the conversation.

The president spoke Monday morning before the National Governors Association at the White House, where he urged the state executives to weigh in on the matter.

"While you are in town, I hope that you speak with your congressional delegation and remind them in no uncertain terms exactly what is at stake and exactly who is at risk," Obama told the room full of governors gathered in Washington for their winter meeting.

He continued: "Because here's the thing. These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise."

At issue is a disagreement over how to reduce the deficit. While Democrats, including the president, call for a mix of spending cuts and more revenue through tax reform, Republicans say taxes are off the table. The real issue, they say, is over-spending, even in entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

"I know that sometimes folks in Congress think that compromise is a bad word. And they figure they'll pay a higher price at the polls for working with the other side than they will for standing pat or engaging in obstructionism," Obama said. "But as governors, some of you with legislatures controlled by the other party, you know that compromise is essential to getting things done."

The forced spending cuts, known in Washington as the sequester, originated from a proposal first floated by the White House in mid-2011 as Congress faced an approaching deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans and Democrats ultimately agreed to raise the debt limit and come up with a deficit-reduction agreement to offset the higher debt level. But, if they didn't act, they would face these automatic budget cuts, instead.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday said the sequester was designed to motivate lawmakers to come up with a better plan.

"It was simply a way of crafting policy that was so onerous, that would cause cuts that nobody liked–Republicans or Democrats-and ... it would compel Congress to compromise, come together on further deficit-reduction in a balanced way," Carney said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

The cuts were supposed to trigger at the beginning of the year, but Congress passed a fiscal cliff bill that delayed the spending reductions by two months, to March 1.

Congress returns to work Monday after a weeklong break, and while Senate Democrats plan to vote on a measure that would replace the cuts for one year, no feasible compromise plan appears in the works that would gain congressional approval before Friday.

If left untouched, the spending cuts will slash $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade, with $85 billion being cut over the next seven months. The White House on Sunday night issued an extensive, state-by-state analysis and dire warnings should the cuts go through.

The report detailed that food safety inspections, early education classrooms and mental health treatment are all at risk in the looming cuts. A reduction in defense spending, meanwhile, will stall maintenance on Navy ships.

All told, non-defense programs would be forced to reduce their spending by 9%, the White House said, while defense programs would have to cut 13%.

Obama on Monday also pointed to cuts in the pre-kindergarten program, "Head Start," which could force tens of thousands of parents to find childcare elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands, he added, will lose access to primary care and preventative care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

"These impacts will not all be felt on Day One, but rest assured, the uncertainty is already having an effect," he said. "Companies are preparing layoff notices. Families are preparing to cut back on expenses. And the longer these cuts are in place, the bigger the impact will become."

Critics argue the White House is exaggerating the potential impact of the budget slashing, with some saying it's time for the country to reduce its spending–even if those cuts were not designed in the most desirable way.

Critics argue the White House is exaggerating the potential impact of the budget slashing, with some saying it's time for the country to reduce its spending.

"Enough's enough," GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters after the president's remarks. "The president needs to stop campaigning, stop trying to scare the American people, stop trying to scare states."

Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said the Obama administration has an "insatiable appetite for new revenue" and repeatedly argued it was time for the president to "show leadership."

If the cuts were "truly devastating," he said, then the administration should cut future programs, such as Obamacare measures, rather than chisel away at existing programs.

In the press conference, the governors also offered a bipartisan call for bipartisanship. Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut said lawmakers "need to get out of that box that sits under the dome and understand that this has real implications in peoples' lives."

"They should stop playing around with it and get the job done," he said. "And by the way they should compromise."

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican and vice-chair of the NGA, said if state governments are able to balance their budgets, then so should the federal government. She called on lawmakers to avert the spending cuts, or at least buy time and find a way to make smarter reductions, rather than across-the-board cuts.

"It creates so much uncertainty in our businesses and our workplace that it affects our job creation, our economic recovery as states. We're hoping that we can find some common ground," she said. "We've asked the president for flexibility, we've asked him not to shift those costs down to the states."

Republicans argue they have already compromised with Democrats by allowing an increase in tax rates in the fiscal cliff bill. And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released a web video Monday that shows a series of clips in which Obama has said he wants to scour the federal budget "line by line, page by page" and cut programs that don't work.

The video ends with text on the screen that reads: "Shouldn't we go 'line-by-line' instead of raising taxes…again?…Spending is the problem."

But the president, as he has many times, said Monday that a deficit-reduction plan needs a balance of both cuts and new revenue.

"We can't just cut our way to prosperity. Cutting alone is not an economic policy," he said.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • President Obama
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. cbr

    The President is absolutely correct. However, he needs to bring members of Congress from both parties to the White House to work out a deal. He needs to show us that he can lead as well as politic for his ideas.

    February 25, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. much thunder.little rain

    if you dont have a buget..then you dont know where your at and where you need to be....these gov. make hard choices all the time ...both political parties do...why cant the president and the senate and house follow these govenors examples...

    February 25, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Obama simply cannot continue to squander trillions of dollars. These cuts DO have to happen. They have been delayed 5 yrs. NOW, and sooner or later, we have to rein in the spending, and since the spending has been outrageous, ofter the last 5 yrs. the time has come to STOP!

    February 25, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. tg

    With this guy it's about....'the sky is falling, the sky if falling so you better give me what I want and I don't care if it's good for the country or not'. The 'Fearmonger in Chief' at his fearmongering again.

    February 25, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "Because here's the thing. These cuts do not have to happen
    Oh no Mr. President.You're wrong on this one. They absolutely DO have to happen, at least that's the way the GOP sees it. They WILL let these drastic cuts kick in, and that in turn will put the economy on a downward spiral, which in turn will cause people to stop spending, economic markers to start trending downwards and the GOP will gleefully be on standby to blame YOU! Just like they have ALWAYS planned to do.
    Do you think that when the Drunkard of the House said that he got 98% of what he wanted he was just referring to that bill you signed? No sir. THIS is the much awaited moment that the GOP has been waiting and plotting for. This is the belated realization of their "making him a one-term President" coming to fruition. It didn't happen in time for the 2012 election, but hey, better late than never for the GOP.
    Brace yourself sir. I don't think this can be averted. This is a fait accompli. Now it is up to us to give them as good as WE got and vote these useless, selfish, party-first, domestic terrorists out of office in 2014.
    We've got work to do America. Be not afraid. Forward.

    February 25, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    I hope republicans will finally realize that unfunded wars , unfunded tax cuts, and trickle don economics, have done more damage to America than any terrorist.

    February 25, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Peter in Ottawa

    Obama saying cuts don't have to happen = proof positive he will spend like a madman until...forever. This guy needs to be removed from power.

    February 25, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. mary

    NO thsee cuts don't have to happen.. Because the alternative is better?? The deal??
    Which is to go to chained CPI and cut SSI to the elderly, the disabled and the vets?
    Why is it that , that is preferable?
    I say neither is right.. Neither option is right.
    There are better ways to cut...
    I would like to know how getting less SSI as a person gets older, as prices go up and up.. And health and ability goes down.. That a elderly or disabled person can make up that loss/?
    Get a job??? Or do without.. ?
    It would be do without.. NO other option.. less food, less medicine..
    NO SSi does not contribute a penny to the debt.. and doing any kind of deal on SSI will not in any way help..
    All it will do is give the mean GOP some warm bodies to sacrifice for their rich benefactors.

    February 25, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. andres

    The sky is falling the sky is falling. Ever notice when governments are trying to avoid cost cutting, they drag out the most sensitive of 'victims'. School children, police, fire, military. What I really don't get is how they refuse to deal with a 2.5% cut. If our 'leaders' are not smart enough to figure out how to do a 2.5% cut we are in deep trouble. How many of you lost jobs and took pay cuts during the 2008 to today recession? How did you handle your personal finances? If like most of us we sold stuff, we cut back significantly and most understood that they could do without. Did any of you stop feeding your children so that you could keep your new car? I certainly hope not.

    February 25, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. callmecrazy

    The President has tried that and got no where. It's not about raising taxes. Any Republican that would appear to compromise with him will get lambasted in the next election. That is why the sequester will happen and now it is who can paint the other as to who is to blame. When the pain in the pocketbook hurts more than their pride, then maybe a deal can be reached.

    February 25, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  11. Woman In California

    He continued: "Because here's the thing. These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise."


    Wrong Mr. President. These cuts must happen in order for the TP/republicans to show you they mean "THEIR business" or no business at all. They're willing to go all the way this time, even if that means taking us all down with them. Make no mistake, these people will never compromise with you nor will they have any sympathy for those who will suffer as a result of their actions. And for those who say the president is only exaggerating, YOU are truly the losers and moochers of our society. May you feel the painful results first.

    February 25, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. California Gary

    I have to laugh at the line "Congress returns to work this week".........since when has this congress ever "worked", or returned to it? They seem totally incapable of doing the people's business.......or if they are capable, they simply don't give a hoot.

    February 25, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. WiredweirdinSF

    He should send all of the Republicans "free" Obamaphones like he did his supporters. That would help him get the votes he needs to increase taxes on working people even more. It worked with democrat liberals.

    February 25, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Lars

    Obama's proposed "tax hikes" are cuts to tax loopholes. Ending corporate welfare isn't raising revenue, it's spending cuts.

    February 25, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair

    When your spending more than you bring in, there's only 2 actions you can take. Bring in more, or spend less. Obama got his tax increase on the "filty rich". In fact, he could raise taxes on EVERYONE and it wouldn't come remotely close to balancing the books. That leaves spending cuts. Lert 'em roll.

    What's going to happen when market interest rates rise... even by a measly percent or 2? It's going to massively blow up the cost to service the debt... then what?

    February 25, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    California Gary

    I have to laugh at the line "Congress returns to work this week".........
    You got that right Gary!
    Congress and "work" in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

    February 25, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. Chris

    It is time for Obama to start leading and bringing people together versus alienating them...We went from Fiscal Clff, to Sequester, to Debt Ceiling....we HAVE to face facts that we are spending more than we are taking in and simply taxing will not solve the problem!!

    February 25, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Woman in California:
    Glad that I'm not the only one that is seeing the nefarious inevitability of what is about to befall us.
    I pray, however, to a higher power that we're BOTH wrong.

    February 25, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. RJC

    How about this – a vote of no confidence for Congress and the POTUS. Throw them all out and Vote in only people that have NEVER served in a position higher than City Council.

    February 25, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Ron Bockman

    The sequester is a good thing for folks who pay taxes. The problem is that entitlements are not affected and the Kenyan in the Whitehouse will manipulate the cuts to make Republicans look bad.

    February 25, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    When your spending more than you bring in, there's only 2 actions you can take. Bring in more, or spend less. Obama got his tax increase on the "filty rich". In fact, he could raise taxes on EVERYONE and it wouldn't come remotely close to balancing the books. That leaves spending cuts. Lert 'em roll.
    Have you had a short term memory wipe or something? 3 or 4 months before they signed the sequester, the Tea Party was trying to shut down government by not funding it. They exacted a trillion dollars worth of cuts. You know. The ones that showed up in the bad GDP numbers for the final quarter of 2012?

    What I'm saying is that Obama gave Republicans their tax cut at the end of 2011. He gave them spending cuts in the spring of 2011. He gave them more spending cuts in the summer of 2011. He got a tax increase at the end of 2012, but Republicans did not want to agree to cuts at that time. Now Republicans are looking for all cuts and no revenue.

    February 25, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. CB FL

    Let the cuts happen and the American people feel the pain. That is the only way they will vote out these people that put party before country.

    February 25, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Mr President yes these cuts must happen. It was your baby!

    February 25, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. Solomon Walker

    Mr. Obama – you are a liar.

    February 25, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. Solomon Walker

    Mr. Obama, you are a liar.
    You should move to Kenya and stay there. Run for president in Kenya.

    February 25, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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