Obama Asks Hill to Extend Sequestration Deadline

Capitol in fog.

President Obama asked Congress Tuesday to extend the sequestration deadline a second time and push it past March 1.  This action is intended to give lawmakers more time to reach an agreement on spending cuts to would prevent sequestration – the automatic budget cuts that would hack $500 billion from the Pentagon's budget.

Signaling concern that an agreement would not be reached this month, Obama said Republican and Democrat leaders needed more time to "keep chipping away at this problem."

"I believe they should pass a smaller package of cuts and tax reforms to delay by a few more months the sequester," Obama said Tuesday.

Obama suggested that Congress pass enough federal spending cuts to allow Congress to delay sequestration by an amount of time the president did not specify. Congress has already delayed the deadline once. In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, Congress agreed to delay the original Jan. 2 deadline to March 1.

If lawmakers can't agree to a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan and fail to delay the sequestration deadline set by Congress, the defense and domestic spending cuts totaling $1 trillion over the next decade would be enacted.

Obama did not say what amount of spending cuts Congress would have to make in order to delay the March 1 sequestration deadline. However, he said that Congress is not ready to "act immediately on a bigger package" to take sequestration off the table.

The president warned that hundreds of thousands of national security jobs connected to the Pentagon and the defense industry would be lost should sequestration take effect. A study by the Aerospace Industries Association estimated that sequestration cuts will cost 2.14 million defense jobs.

"Congress is already working on a budget to avoid the sequester, and we should give them more time," Obama said.

Obama said in his speech Tuesday that he supported an agreement that combined spending cuts with an increase in tax revenue.

Republican leaders balked at the president's request for another delay saying it was poor policy to keep extending the deadline rather than reaching a final agreement of spending cuts that would decrease the deficit and avoid sequestration.

"President Obama first proposed the sequester and insisted it become law," House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense."

Boehner criticized the president for pressing for more tax hikes.

"We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes," Boehner said. "The president's sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years."

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., issued a joint statement warning that further defense cuts would equate to using U.S. troops "as a piggy bank to keep unsustainable [domestic] spending programs on life support."

"We must be clear," McKeon and Inhofe said. "This approach is neither responsible nor balanced."

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