WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama is increasing pressure on opposition Republicans in Congress to avert a series of mandatory spending cuts that are to take effect on March 1. The president also sought Friday to reassure the world economy about the possible effects of the cuts.
Obama called it a “no-brainer,” a simple decision. He said it should be easy for Republican lawmakers to find ways to prevent $85 billion in government budget cuts from taking effect next Friday.
Otherwise, he warned that the U.S. and global economies could suffer.
“These kinds of arbitrary, automatic cuts would have an adverse impact on families, on teachers, on parents who are reliant on Head Start programs, on our military readiness, on mental health services, on medical research. This is not a smart way for us to reduce the deficit,” said Obama.
But while meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Oval Office, the president sent a message to world leaders that the automatic budget cuts would not threaten the world financial system.
“It is not like the equivalent of the U.S. defaulting on its obligations. What it does mean, though, is that if the U.S. is growing slower, then other countries grow slower, because we continue to be a central engine in world economic growth. So I do not think anybody would like to see this outcome.”
The Republicans who control the House of Representatives are threatening to let the cuts take effect, because they say excessive government spending is the top threat to the U.S. economy.
House Speaker John Boehner said the reductions should stay in effect until cuts and reforms are enacted that would lead to a balanced budget.
The Obama administration has been sending numerous warnings in recent days about the possible effects of the cuts. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters the slashed budget would affect air traffic control and airplane maintenance, and would cause widespread flight delays.
“Flights to major cities, like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others, could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours, because we have fewer controllers on staff. Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country,” said LaHood.
State governors from the president’s Democratic Party, after meeting with Obama at the White House, said the budget crisis would hurt their state economies.
Governor Peter Shumlin of the Northeastern state of Vermont said many states’ economies are just beginning to come back from years of economic crisis.
“We cannot afford to put at risk jobs and the recovery,” said Shumlin.
The White House has called for a combination of less severe budget cuts and tax increases to prevent the deeper automatic cuts from taking effect.
Republican lawmakers say they agreed to one round of higher taxes in the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations at the end of 2012, and they will not tolerate another.