President Obama today urged lawmakers to pass a short-term package of spending cuts and tax revenue to head off deep budget cuts set to kick in on March 1, warning of dire economic consequences if Congress fails to act.
The president did not offer any specifics, but asked Congress to take steps to postpone the automatic sequester cuts for several months.
"If Congress can't act immediately on a bigger package, if they can't get a bigger package done by the time the sequester is scheduled to go into effect, then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room.
Saying the economy is "poised for progress" this year, the president called for lawmakers to avoid another costly fiscal fight.
"Our economy right now is headed in the right direction, and it will stay that way as long as there aren't any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington," he said.
The automatic cuts could lead to widespread layoffs and would indiscriminately slash $1.2 trillion in domestic and defense spending over the next decade.
"There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn't come together to eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes or government programs that we agree need some reform," he said.
The sequester was designed in 2011 to force Congress and the White House to agree to significant, long-term deficit reduction over the next ten years. While lawmakers have agreed to $2.5 trillion in deficit savings, more progress is needed.
The president made clear that that proposals he put forth during the "fiscal cliff" negotiations are still an option. "The deals that I put forward, the balanced approach of spending cuts and entitlement reform and tax reform that I put forward are still on the table," he said.
Declining to answer any questions, the president joked "that's why I hired this guy Jay Carney" as he exited the briefing room.