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Obama: Avoiding sequester should be 'no-brainer'

4:03 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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With one week to go before the budget sequester kicks in, President Obama pledged Friday to work with congressional Republicans about how to avoid $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that will slow economic growth and kill thousands of jobs.

"My hope is we can see a different course taken by Congress," Obama said after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "This should be a no-brainer."

Asked his chances of avoiding the automatic cuts, Obama said: "Hope springs eternal ... I will just keep on making my case."

The sequester -- budget-speak for the $85 billion in automatic cuts, split between domestic and defense programs -- is set to take effect next Friday unless Obama and Congress strike a new agreement to reduce part of the nation's $16 trillion-plus debt.

Obama, who has been conducting a campaign-like series of events, is seeking a budget package that includes higher taxes on the wealthy as well as spending cuts. The higher taxes would come from eliminating loopholes and deductions, the president said.

Congressional Republicans say they oppose any tax increases, and the debt reduction plan should be spending cuts only.

Barring a deal, Obama said the "automatic, arbitrary" reductions would damage essential programs ranging from national defense to education to medical research.

Shortly before Obama spoke, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters that the sequester would lead to delays for air travelers because of cutbacks in the air traffic control system.

"These are harmful cuts with real world consequences," LaHood said.

Obama also met Friday with a group of Democratic governors, urging them to lobby Republicans back in their states on the threats posed by the cuts..

Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said sequester-related reductions would lead to the elimination of 6,000 jobs in New Hampshire, and "that's about 1% of our work force."

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