Obama to Argue for Spending Deal in Local TV Interviews

President Barack Obama will answer questions from local television journalists today as part of his campaign to pressure Congress to avoid $1.2 trillion in approaching spending cuts, according to a White House official.

In conversations with eight news anchors at television stations from across the U.S., Obama will describe the harm that the reductions would bring if lawmakers fail to reach a deal and the cuts kick in as scheduled on March 1, according to the official, who asked to not be named ahead of the interviews.

During the sessions, the president will back a plan from congressional Democrats to delay the cuts by 10 months and warn Republicans that they would be blamed for any failure to reach a deal, the official said.

Yesterday, Obama said the reductions would cost the U.S. hundreds of thousands of jobs and hamper military readiness, and he urged lawmakers to at least approve a temporary package that buys time for negotiation.

“These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” Obama said in Washington. “This is not an abstraction, people will lose their jobs.”

During the interviews scheduled for today, the president is also expected to reveal more details about the $50 billion infrastructure spending proposal he announced in last week’s State of the Union speech, according to the White House official. Obama will unveil plans to speed federal reviews for permits of transportation, water and energy projects, the official said.

Boehner Op-Ed

Republicans are also taking their case to the public with an opinion article by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in today’s Wall Street Journal, in which he called the sequester “the product of the president’s own failed leadership.”

“So, as the president’s outrage about the sequester grows in coming days, Republicans have a simple response: Mr. President, we agree that your sequester is bad policy. What spending are you willing to cut to replace it?” he wrote in the op-ed article, published on the paper’s website last night.

The U.S. economy stalled in the last three months of 2012, marking the worst quarter since the recession ended three and a half years ago, as defense spending fell by the most since 1972. Without action by Congress, the across-the-board cuts represent another potential drag on growth.

By law, the cuts, spread over nine years, would be equally divided between defense and non-defense spending. While both parties agree the reductions may damage the recovery and hamper national security, neither side has moved to break the impasse as the deadline nears.

Political Posturing

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, released a statement before Obama spoke yesterday, accusing the president of engaging in political posturing rather than negotiations.

“Today’s event at the White House proves once again that more than three months after the November election, President Obama still prefers campaign events to common-sense, bipartisan action,” McConnell said in a statement.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the reductions would reduce annual gross domestic product growth by 0.6 percent this year, enough to eliminate 750,000 jobs.

Administration officials said the White House would back a proposal advanced by Senate Democrats that would delay the automatic reductions by 10 months. Their alternative $110 billion plan would cut defense spending, end direct-aid payments to farmers and set a minimum income-tax rate on top earners.

The president said yesterday he would insist on combining higher revenue through tax code changes with spending cuts that won’t harm the economy, and that cutting alone would hinder growth.

“Deficit reduction is not an economic plan,” he said.

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