Obama pitches limited budget cuts

Sweeping spending reductions are set to take effect March 1

President Barack Obama asks Congress on Tuesday to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across-the-board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1. Enlarge photo

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

President Barack Obama asks Congress on Tuesday to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across-the-board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1.

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on lawmakers to quickly pass a package of limited spending cuts that can head off the automatic, across-the-board reductions that are set to take effect March 1.

Obama said Congress should delay the automatic cuts for a period of months to give lawmakers a chance to negotiate a full budget that permanently resolves the threat of the so-called sequester.

“They should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms” to put off the automatic cuts, Obama said, adding that there is no reason to put at risk “the jobs of thousands of Americans.”

The president said the economy has begun to recover, but he warned that continuing clashes over taxes and spending threaten to delay or derail that improvement.

“We’ve also seen the effects that political dysfunction can have,” he said. “We’ve made progress, and I still believe we can finish the job with a balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform.”

The president delivered the request in a statement Tuesday afternoon at the White House, acknowledging that a broader budget agreement is unlikely to be reached by the March deadline when the cuts to domestic and military programs will go into effect.

Obama’s remarks came at about the time the Congressional Budget Office released its annual economic report and its latest projection on the country’s deficit.

The budget office, in its first analysis since the year-end tax deal between the White House and Congress raised taxes on high incomes, showed that the deficit for this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 would be $845 billion after four post-crisis years of deficits higher than $1 trillion.

That $845 billion difference between government receipts and spending would be equal to 5.3 percent of the nation’s total output, or gross domestic product.

While the annual deficit is projected to decline as the economy recovers, the budget office once again emphasized the deficit will rise later in the decade and continue do to so as the population ages and health-care prices keep rising.

New deficit projections will define the scope of the nation’s spending problem and will help to shape the contours of the fiscal fights between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in the coming years.