Obama will ask Congress for budget cuts to head off automatic reductions

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will ask Congress to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across the board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1, White House officials said Tuesday.

Obama will make his request afternoon in a public statement at the White House.

The automatic cuts, if they are allowed to proceed, could require widespread layoffs and indiscriminately affect defense programs and domestic spending accounts.

Obama will ask for a targeted way to reduce the deficit in the short term, perhaps several months. White House officials said that Congress needs more time to work out a 10-year plan worth more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction. Obama is not placing a time span or a dollar amount on the short-term plan. Officials said he will leave that to Congress.

Finding deficit reductions of up to $85 billion would put off the automatic cuts, known as a “sequester” in government budget language, until the start of the new fiscal year.

White House officials say the delay will give Congress and the administration time to negotiate a long-term deal through the regular legislative budget process.

The automatic cuts are part of a 10-year, $1 trillion deficit reduction plan that was supposed to spur Congress and the administration to act on long-term fiscal policies that would stabilize the nation’s debt. Though Congress and the White House have agreed on about $2.6 trillion in cuts and higher taxes since the beginning of 2011, they have been unable to close the deal on their goal of reducing deficits by about $4 trillion over a decade.

If the automatic cuts are allowed to kick in, they would reduce Pentagon spending by 7 percent and domestic programs by 5 percent. Food stamps and Medicaid would be exempt, but Medicare could take up to a 2 percent reduction, under the plan.

The automatic cuts were supposed to take effect Jan. 1. But Obama and congressional Republicans struck a New Year’s deal that extended Bush era tax rates for all but the wealthiest Americans and put in place about $24 billion in deficit reduction. That delay effectively postponed the automatic reductions to March 1.

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