Following his meeting with congressional leaders, President Obama asked members of the press what he should do to avoid the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as “the sequester.”
The Associated Press’ Julie Pace asked Obama, “How much responsibility do you feel like you bear for these cuts taking effect and is the only way to offset them at this point for Republicans to bend on revenue, or do you see any alternative?”
Obama responded, “Well, look, we’ve already cut $2.5 trillion in our deficit. Everybody says we need to cut $4 trillion, which means we have to come up with another trillion and a half.”
He continued, “The vast majority of economists agree that the problem when it comes to deficits is not discretionary spending; it’s not that we’re spending too much money on education. It’s not that we’re spending too much money on job training or that we’re spending too much money rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We’re not. The problem that we have is a long-term problem in terms of our health care costs and programs like Medicare.”
Obama went on to say he is willing to take on his own party over Medicare reform, but did not directly answer the reporter’s question.
“It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one that you bear any responsibility for,” Pace said to Obama.
“Well, Julie, give me an example of what — what I might do,” Obama responded.
“Just trying to clarify your stance,” she said.
“Well, no, but I’m trying to clarify the question. Well, what I’m suggesting is I’ve put forward a plan that calls for serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reforms, goes right at the problem that is at the heart of our long-term deficit problem,” Obama said.
“I’ve offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach. And so far we’ve gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans have said is, we cannot do any revenue; we can’t do a dime’s worth of revenue. So what more do you think I should do?”
Obama continued, saying, “you know, because if people have a suggestion, I’m happy to, you know, this is a room full of smart folks.”
The automatic spending cuts were set up by the Budget Control Act of 2011 which President Obama signed into law. They take effect because the bipartisan Super Committee failed to reach a deficit reduction agreement.