President Obama called for a delay in sequestration on Tuesday to give lawmakers time to reach a budget compromise, describing the across-the-board cuts a major blockade to economic progress.
Obama said federal employee furloughs would come at the cost of middle-class taxpayers who rely on a variety of federal programs.
“Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced,” Obama warned at a press conference in the White House. “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, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.”
Flanked by emergency responders whose jobs would also be threatened by sequestration, Obama said the cuts fail to distinguish between antiquated programs with bloated budgets and essential services such as childcare and access to preventative health care like cancer screens. He added, however, that senselessness in the policy was intentional so the cuts would be avoided.
“This was all designed to say ‘We can’t do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter.’ That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration,” he said.
Obama acknowledged there is room for the government to operate more efficiently.
“In the abstract, people like the idea, there must be some spending we can cut, there must be some waste out there,” he explained. “There absolutely is. But this isn’t the right way to do it”
He also said sequestration harms America’s ability to protect its interests.
“If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness,” Obama said, pointing out plans to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf have already been delayed due to budget concerns.
Obama called for a delay to the cuts “not to kick the can down the road, but to give [Congress] time to work together on a plan that finishes the job of deficit reduction in a sensible way.”
He said such a plan should include targeted budget cuts as well as tax code reform to eliminate loopholes benefiting the wealthy, vowing to veto any legislation that “harms the middle class.”