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february 19, 2013 • 06:05 AM • last update 08:53 AM

Obama to apply fresh pressure on Republicans to avoid cuts

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about strengthening the economy for the middle class and measures to combat gun violence during a visit to Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, Illinois February 15, 2013.
Foto: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
 

President Barack Obama will make a fresh push on Tuesday to force congressional Republicans to make concessions that will head off budget cuts that appear increasingly likely to kick in starting on March 1.

Obama, just back from a three-day golf getaway in Florida, will appear at the White House at 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT) with emergency responders who would lose their jobs if the cuts go into effect.

A White House official said he would urge Congress to approve a $110 billion tax increase and spending cut plan that would postpone more severe spending cuts set to begin March 1.

If Congress fails to act, about $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts begin on March 1 and continue through September 30 as part of a decade-long $1.2 trillion budget savings plan.

Half the cuts would be shouldered by the Pentagon and the other half scattered among many other government agencies.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, if fully implemented, these cuts would hold back U.S. growth and prevent the creation of about 750,000 jobs this year.

But with Democrats and Republicans far apart on how to avoid the automatic cuts, they are widely expected to go into effect on March 1. In subsequent weeks a replacement measure could be negotiated at the same time Congress works on a deal to fund government agencies that run out of money on March 27.

Obama has been adamant that any budget agreement to replace the cuts reflect a "balanced approach" and include both budget cuts and tax increases.

He wants to raise revenue by eliminating tax loopholes enjoyed mostly by the wealthy.

But Republicans feel they have raised taxes enough after reluctantly agreeing to increase them on the wealthy as part of a deal that avoided the "fiscal cliff" of higher taxes and spending cuts that would have kicked in at the end of 2012.

Republicans want deeper spending cuts to reduce America's $1 trillion annual deficits and $16 trillion national debt.

The White House effort to force Republicans to act is focused on dramatizing just who would lose jobs if the cuts go into effect.

The emergency workers he will appear with on Tuesday are "the kinds of working Americans whose jobs are on the line if congressional Republicans fail to compromise on a balanced solution," said a White House official.

"With less than two weeks before these cuts hit, the president will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice: do they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?", the official said.

To give Congress time to act on a long-term solution, Obama will urge congressional Republicans to accept the smaller $110 billion package that Democrats proposed last week.

"The president will urge congressional Republicans to compromise and accept this solution so these devastating cuts that will hurt our economy and middle class families won't hit," the official said.

Reuters Terra Terra