With little time left until the $85 billion in sequestration cuts take effect on March 1, President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Tuesday to prevent what he called the “brutal” cuts from taking place.
Despite the fact that Congress is in recess this week, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles—co-chairmen of Obama’s 2010 debt commission—descended on Capitol Hill the same day to push a new plan that would cut the projected deficit by a further $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, over and above the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction that has already taken place.
In comments from the White House, Obama detailed who would be affected by what he called the “meat-cleaver approach.” The sequestration, he said, “will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research.”
Emergency responders, Obama said, and their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded; Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced; FBI agents will be furloughed; federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go; air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks; thousands of teachers will be laid off; tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare; Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the new Simpson-Bowles proposal would identify $600 billion in spending reductions—roughly $200 billion more than the White House has said it is willing to accept—through changes to health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Another $600 billion in deficit reduction would come from curbing or ending a number of tax breaks, the Journal reported, roughly in line with the level of increased revenue that White House officials have said they are seeking. Most Republicans, however, have said they won’t accept any tax increases as part of a deficit reduction package.