Obama presses GOP to halt automatic spending cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Staking out his ground

ahead of a fiscal deadline, President Barack Obama lashed out against


saying they are unwilling to raise taxes to reduce deficits and

warning that the jobs of essential government workers, from

teachers to emergency responders, are on the line.

Obama spoke as a March 1 deadline for automatic across-the-board spending cuts approached and with Republicans and Democrats

in an apparent stalemate over how to avoid them.

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in

immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of

government would

feel the effects, from furloughed FBI agents to reductions in

spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and


He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

"People will lose their jobs," he said. "The unemployment rate might tick up again."

"So far at least, the ideas that the

Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or the

biggest corporations,"

Obama said. "So the burden is all on the first responders, or

seniors or middle class families."

House Republicans have proposed an

alternative to the immediate cuts, targeting some spending and extending

some of the reductions

over a longer period of time. They also have said they are willing

to undertake changes in the tax code and eliminate loopholes

and tax subsidies. But they have said they would overhaul the tax

system to reduce rates, not to raise revenue.

Obama's remarks came a day after he returned to Washington from a three-day golfing weekend in Florida.

Congress is not in session this week, meaning no votes will occur before next week and complicating the ability to negotiate

any short-term resolution.

Obama wants to offset the sequester through a combination of targeted spending cuts and increased tax revenue. The White House

is backing a proposal unveiled last week by Senate Democrats that is in line with the president's principles.

But that plan was met with an icy reception

by Republicans, who oppose raising taxes to offset the cuts. GOP leaders

say the

president got the tax increases he wanted at the beginning of the

year when Congress agreed to raise taxes on family income

above $450,000 a year.

The White House said Obama on Tuesday would call on congressional Republicans to compromise and accept the Senate Democrats'


The Democrats propose to generate revenue by plugging some tax loopholes. Those include tax breaks for the oil and natural

gas industry and businesses that have sent jobs overseas, and by taxing millionaires at a rate of at least 30 percent.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the Ohio Republican agrees the sequester is a bad way to reduce spending,

but put the onus for averting the cuts on Democrats.

"A solution now requires the Senate — controlled by the president's party — to finally pass a plan of their own," spokesman

Brendan Buck said.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan proposal Tuesday by

co-chairs of an influential deficit-reduction commission called for

reducing the

deficit by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, with much of the

savings coming through health care reform, closing tax loopholes,

a stingier adjustment of Social Security's cost of living

increases and other measures.

Some Republicans, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have advocated plugging loopholes, but as part

of a discussion on a tax overhaul, not sequestration.

"Loopholes are necessary for tax reform,"

Ryan said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." ''If you take them for spending,

you're blocking

tax reform and you're really not getting the deficit under


The sequester was first set to begin taking effect on Jan. 1. But as part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, the White House

and lawmakers agreed to push it off for two months in order to create space to work on a larger budget deal.

With little progress on that front in recent weeks, Obama is calling for the sequester to be put off again, though it's unclear

whether another delay would have any impact on the prospects for a broader budget agreement.