President Barack Obama says the federal government and other Americans will have to do their best to manage the effects of the $85 billion first stage of budget cuts forced on the country by partisan gridlock in Washington.
In remarks before the first cabinet meeting of his second term, Obama said he continues to seek partners among opposition Republicans to reverse mandatory cuts, known as the sequester.
Last week, the president and congressional leaders failed to break the impasse over the sequester, because of strong differences on the best way to achieve long-term deficit reduction.
Obama formally signed an order Friday directing government agencies to comply with legislation called the Budget Control Act of 2011 that mandated the $85 billion automatic cuts, part of $1.2 trillion in potential cuts over the next decade. This year’s amount is about 5 percent of the annual budget.
Monday, he said government agencies will try to manage cuts as best they can to minimize the impact on Americans.
“It’s not the right way for us to go about deficit reduction. It makes sense for us to take a balanced approach that takes a long view, and doesn’t reduce our commitment to things like education and basic research that will help us grow over the long term,” he said.
Obama said government agencies face very difficult decisions, adding that the budget cuts will hurt families and communities and mean slower U.S. economic growth and job creation.
He insists on what he calls balanced and fair deficit reduction, including a mix of new revenue, tax reform, and reforms in expensive government programs such as Medicare.
Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the sequester. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, last week ruled out discussion of further revenue, saying Obama had already achieved enough tax increases.
“This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It’s about taking on the spending problem here in Washington,” he said.
Spokesman Jay Carney declined to provide any substantive details of conversations Obama has had with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Carney said Obama is trying to find some common ground with Republicans, adding that both sides could still achieve greater deficit reduction.
“The $4 trillion in deficit reduction set as a goal by Speaker Boehner, President Obama and many economists inside and outside of government can be achieved and then some if Republicans would embrace the president’s compromise proposal that would do some tough things on entitlements as well as on spending, and tax reform,” he said.
President Obama was seated next to his newest cabinet member on Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is grappling with sequester effects on Pentagon spending.
Earlier, Obama announced his choices to fill three other cabinet positions, at the Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and Office of Management and Budget.