President Barack Obama slammed the Republican Party for forcing “dumb, arbitrary cuts” during a Friday morning press briefing at the White House.
After a meeting with congressional leaders failed to produce any movement towards an agreement to avert the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, Obama pinned the blame for the stalemate squarely on the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
“Let’s be clear, none of this is necessary. It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made,” Obama told the White House press corps. “They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refused to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”
Perhaps referencing a recent poll showing that 76 percent of Americans want the deficit reduced by a combination of spending cuts and new revenues — compared to just 19 percent who agree with the Republican position that new revenues should be completely off the table — Obama stated that “we just need Congress to catch up with their own party and country with this.”
“I have offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach, and so far we have gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans have said is we cannot do any revenue,” Obama told a reporter who had asked if he bore responsibility for the lack of a deficit reduction deal. “So what more do you think I should do?”
“I am not a dictator, I’m the President,” Obama added in hopes of hammering home his point that his hands are tied unless the Republican Party shows some willingness to compromise. “So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say ‘I need to go to catch a plane,’ I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?”
In addition to targeting congressional Republicans, Obama also reiterated the dangers that the deep cuts will pose to the economy. While the president acknowledged that the cuts’ impact may not be felt immediately, he vowed that “the pain will be real.”
“The economy will not grow as quickly as it would have. Unemployment will not go down as quickly as it would have. And there are lives behind that. And it’s real,” Obama said. He later added that the failure to avert the cuts is “a loss for the American people.”
Obama’s comments came after an hourlong meeting between the president, Boehner, Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. After leaving the meeting empty-handed, Speaker Boehner offered a short statement to reporters outside the White House. Proving Obama’s point that no real negotiations can take place at this time, Boehner reiterated his stance that “The discussion about revenue, in my opinion, is over.”
“It’s about taking on the spending problem here in Washington,” Boehner added. The Speaker continued to resist naming any specific spending cuts, however, instead choosing to once again call on Senate Democrats to write a bill — and take the political heat for the results.
With no deal in place, sequestration will formally begin on Friday before 11:59pm, whenever President Obama orders it into effect.
A portion of Obama’s comments is below, via ABC News:
Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak