Politics
President Barack Obama, accompanied by emergency responders, a group of workers the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts, gestures as he speaks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama, accompanied by emergency responders, a group of workers the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts, gestures as he speaks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

Obama, GOP blame each other for pending sequester cuts

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Top GOP politicians and President Barack Obama Tuesday traded blame for the pending sequester cuts, and neither showed any willingness to compromise.

“President Obama still prefers campaign events to common sense,” said a statement from the Senate Republicans’ leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.

“Republicans have asked nothing of the wealthiest Americans … so the burden is all on seniors or middle-class families,” Obama said at an event in the White House today. “They doubled down on harsh cuts. … They’d rather have these cuts go into effect [rather] than close a single tax loophole for the wealthiest Americans,” he claimed.

To prevent the spending cuts, worth about $85 billion in between March 1 and Dec. 31, Obama called for tax increases and some spending cuts.

As on previous occasions, he portrayed the proposed tax increases as savings.

“I will [seek] to save hundreds of billions of dollar by enacting comprehensive tax reform,” he said. In December, Obama won a 10-year tax-increase worth $600 billion on upper-income Americans, and ended the pre-election rollback on Social Security taxes.

Obama, however, has the advantage over the GOP in any media fight.

He is the president, meaning he can use the White House backdrop, civil servants and the established media to push his case.

“Border patrol agencies will see heir hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed, federal prosecutors will have to close cases and lest suspects go … [there will be] more delays at airports across the country, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care,” he insisted, while standing in front of a television-friendly group of police officers.

In contrast, McConnell’s more complicated — and less dramatic — response was made via email.

“The President won’t cut funds to first responders when just last year Washington handed out an estimated $115 billion in payments to individuals who weren’t even eligible to receive them, or at a time when 11 different government agencies are funding 90 different green energy programs,” said McConnell’s email.

GOP leaders say Obama pushed the sequester plan during budget talks in 2011, that they would end tax-breaks for the wealthy if the money is used to lower other taxes, and that they have drafted and passed budget plans to slow the growth of the federal government’s $16 trillion debt.

In contrast, Obama has drafted preliminary spending plans to that would increase federal spending, raise taxes and not cut fast-growing medical programs.

“We should close loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code, but that revenue should be used to lower rates across the board,” said an email from Rep. John Boehner, the speaker of the House. “Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus.”

GOP activists, however, provided more color as they pushed back against Obama’s call for more taxes.

“Pres O’s thought bubble right now: Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Spend,” said a tweet from Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for Pres. George W. Bush.

“It’s Pres Obama pitting first responders & education funding vs ‘loopholes.’ House #GOP averted sequester,” said a tweet from Brad Dayspring, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Obama is one playing chicken,” he added.

“President says his door is open, but he’s spent more time in 2013 with Tiger Woods than with all Congressional Republicans,” said a tweet from Doug Heye, a press aid for Rep. Eric Cantor, the GOP’s majority leader in the House.

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