Obama Backs Off Warnings About Sequester

Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP PhotoAP

After weeks of outlining the dire consequences of the looming across-the-board spending cuts, President Obama tonight softened his warnings, saying the sequester is "not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward."

With a little over 48 hours to avert $85 billion in cuts, the president told business executives "it's conceivable that in the first week, the first two weeks, the first three weeks, the first month - that unless your business is directly related to the Defense Department, unless you live in a town that is directly impacted by a military installation, unless you're a family that now is trying to figure out where to keep your kids during the day because you just lost a Head Start slot - a lot of people may not notice the full impact of the sequester."

But, he made clear "this is going to be a big hit on the economy."

"It means that you have fewer customers with money in their pockets ready to buy your goods and services," he told the Business Council in Washington. "It means that the global economy will be weaker… And the worst part of it is it's entirely unnecessary."

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Calling the cuts "not a smart thing to do," the president said he's willing to make tough decisions "which will garner some significant frustrations on the part of members of my party."

Democrats need to accept entitlement reform, he said, but Republicans also have to accept the need for additional revenues.

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"Whether that can be done in the next two days," he questioned, "I haven't seen things done in two days here in Washington in quite some time."

Tick, tick…