President Barack Obama pressured Congressional Republicans to take action to avert the spending cuts scheduled to take effect next week as a result of the sequester this morning, telling the nation in a press conference that the cuts are "not an abstraction."
"People will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again," Obama said, appearing in front of a slew of emergency responders.
He used the presence of the first responders — whose jobs he said were on the line as a result of the cuts — to issue a direct challenge to Republicans.
"Are you willing to see a bunch of emergency responders lose their jobs because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole?" Obama said.
Obama said that the sequester "won' t help the economy, won't create jobs, and will mean hardship for a whole lot of people."
"If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place," Obama said, it will affect military readiness and shrink crucial services. He warned that thousands of teachers and other educators will be laid off. It will affect the FBI and other emergency responders. He said the cuts will challenge the U.S.'s ability to challenge threats to different parts of the world.
House Speaker John Boehner's responded to Obama's press conference by saying that the President hasn't offered a credible solution to avert the sequester.
“Washington Democrats’ newfound concern about the president’s sequester is appreciated, but words alone won’t avert it," Boehner said. Replacing the president’s sequester will require a plan to cut spending that will put us on the path to a budget that is balanced in 10 years. To keep these first responders on the job, what other spending is the president willing to cut?”
Obama chided Congress for having "some manufactured crisis" "every three months around here."
" We’ve got a few days — Congress can do the right thing," he said.
Obama's statement comes upon his return from a weekend trip to Florida and while Congress is in recess until Feb. 25.
Obama and Republicans have been battling for the past few weeks about the sequester, though there appears to be growing resignation that the cuts are going to happen.
Congressional Republicans have pushed back at Obama's criticism by saying they have twice passed legislation to replace the cuts. Senate Democrats released their own sequester-aversion plan last week that replaces 10 months of sequester cuts through an even mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, but it has yet to gain any serious traction.
Just how much does the sequester cost?
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