President Barack Obama answers a question about sequestration at the White House following a meeting with Speaker of the House John Boehner and congressional leaders on Friday, March 1, 2013. Obama branded the automatic budget cuts about to hit the U.S. economy as "dumb" and "unnecessary," but blamed Republicans for the failure to avert them. (Getty Images)
Deep spending cuts now in place, President Barack Obama used his weekly address to keep the blame solidly on Republicans, accusing them again of putting the interests of the wealthy above working families.
Obama signed an order Friday night authorizing the government to start slashing $85 billion from federal budgets, an outcome both sides had said they wanted to avoid.
"Here’s the thing: none of this is necessary," Obama said in his weekly address. "It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit. Just this week, they decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts."
Obama warned the cuts will have a "ripple effect across the country" and will cause more damage the longer they remain in place, eventually costing more than 750,000 jobs.
"I still believe we can and must replace these cuts with a balanced approach – one that combines smart spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to our tax code," he said. "A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach – including a majority of Republicans. We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country."
Meanwhile, Republicans countered that they had done their part to avert the cuts, passing two proposals in the House of Representatives to replace sequestration with smarter cuts. The bills were never taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
"We've done the work and shown that these choices can be made in a responsible, thoughtful way," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said. "We urge President Obama and Senate Democrats to put country ahead of party and pass a responsible plan to replace the sequester. Instead of campaigning for higher taxes, President Obama should lead an effort to begin addressing our nation's spending problem."