WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday chastised Congress for “careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis” and tried to blame lawmakers for the spending cuts due to take a bite out of agency budgets on Friday.
Speaking to a bipartisan group of state governors at the White House, Obama repeated his warnings about the impact the cuts will have on federal programs and services. He warned of jobs losses and economic slowdown, and suggested that lawmakers were responsible for averting the pain.
“These cuts do not have to happen,” Obama told the group gathered for a meeting of the National Governors Assn. “Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise.”
The remarks are part of the White House’s broad effort to create a public outcry about the across-the-board cuts and then point the finger at Republicans on Capitol Hill. As the March 1 deadline approaches, the White House has ramped up its descriptions of potential effects, describing delayed flights, furloughed federal workers, park closings and laid-off teachers.
On Sunday, the White House released a report detailing the impact at the state level, urging the governors to reach out to their state delegations. The president is slated to head to the shipbuilding hub of Newport News, Va., Tuesday, an area already seeing slowed work along with jobs losses as the Pentagon is forced to cut orders from contractors.
Obama’s public campaign mentions little about the origins of the much-hated belt-tightening. Both he and Congress approved the blunt, automatic reductions in 2011, hoping lawmakers would decide to compromise on a larger deficit-and-debt-reduction package to avoid the loathsome cuts.
Instead, Republicans and Democrats are locked in a standoff. Obama and his Democratic allies are demanding that any budget deal include new tax revenue from the wealthy and corporations. Having already raised tax rates on top earners this year, Republicans have refused to agree to any new taxes.
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The Washington budget showdown is familiar, so familiar that the usual last-minute scurry for a deal seems to have given way to shrugs of resignation. There are no signs of bargaining or deal-making, no meetings are scheduled, despite lobbying from the visiting governors to reach a deal.
As he addressed the bipartisan group, Obama tried to align himself with the governors, saying as chief executives they understand how to find common ground and compromise – while lawmakers in Washington were focused on partisan politics.
“This town has to get past its obsession with focusing on the next election instead of the next generation. All of us are elected officials. All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party’s as well as the other party’s,” he said. “But at some point we’ve got to do some governing.”