White House sequester scare campaign continues

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama phoned top GOP Hill leaders Thursday, marking another stage in the White House public relations campaign to spur a media storm over the pending budget sequester that will trim federal spending by roughly two percent in 2013.

White House spokesman Jay Carney announced Obama’s phone calls, but declined to describe the conversation.

“The president spoke with Sen. [Mitch] McConnell and the Speaker” John Boehner, Carney said during the midday press conference. “I have no content to read out to you from those conversations,” he said.

Currently, the cuts begin March 1, and are concentrated on the so-called discretionary side of the federal budget, and exclude entitlement programs, such as Medicare. For example, up to $45 billion will be cut from the Pentagon’s $630 billion 2013 budget by October.

Carney’s confirmation of the calls comes as White House officials — including the president — step up their effort to dominate media coverage of the pending cuts.

Strategically, the White House’s goal is to maximize the cuts’ perceived impact on middle-class Americans, then blame the GOP and so weaken the GOP prior to the 2014 election.

At part of that political campaign, Carney again used provocative language that said GOP legislators prefer to impose painful spending cuts on middle-class Americans rather than close a few tax “loopholes” used by high-income Americans.

The cuts are “a manufactured crisis that is unnecessary,” he claimed.

Obama has offered compromises that require “tough choices for his party … [and are] middle-of-the-road, common-sense plans,” he claimed.

Carney also claimed the president is powerless to reduce the impact without action from Congress.

“It would certainly be a welcome development if the president was able to pass legislation,” he said when asked if the president has any bureaucratic ability to reduce the impact of spending cuts on middle-class Americans.

The sequester was included in the bipartisan deal at Obama’s request and approved by congressional members of both parties. In 2011, Obama threatened to veto any effort to stop the sequester’s cuts. Since then, Obama and other administration officials have repeatedly claimed included the sequester cuts while claiming credit for cutting the predicted 10-year deficit by $2.5 trillion.

However, deficit spending has raised the federal government’s debt by $6 trillion since 2009. It is expected to climb another $3 billion by the end of his second term.

This year, Obama is demanding the GOP agree to tax cuts before he will sign a bill to stop the sequester.

GOP officials now label the cuts as the “Obama-quester.”

Unless stopped by a congressional deal, the sequester will trim roughly $42 billion to $85 billion in 2013, or from 1.2 to 2.4 percent, from the federal government’s $3.8 trillion 2013 budget.

“If lawmakers chose to prevent those automatic cuts each year without making other changes that reduced spending by offsetting amounts, spending would be $42 billion higher in 2013 and $995 billion (or about 2 percent) higher over the 2014–2023 period than is projected in CBO’s current baseline,” said CBO’s February report, titled “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023.”

A $42 billion cut in 2013 is equivalent to roughly one cent from every dollar of 2013 spending.

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