Obama more emotional on spending cuts

Obama: People will lose jobs over cuts

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Story highlights

  • Obama takes his case on sequestration to American people
  • Emotional rhetoric aimed at inspiring public outrage at looming cuts
  • Roughly $85 billion in government-wide cuts would be set in motion March 1
  • Congress must act to avert cuts, which would be phased in

President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Congress about the potential fallout from deep cuts in spending set to take effect on March 1, directing his emotional message squarely at the American people.

Flanked by first responders whose jobs could be affected if the initial wave of $85 billion in cuts for this year goes forward, Obama argued on Tuesday that such drastic austerity could add hundreds of thousands of people to the unemployment lines and hurt the economy.

"If Congress allows this meat cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness, it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research," the president said. "It won't consider whether we're cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day."

What spending cuts would look like

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    What spending cuts would look like

What spending cuts would look like 01:35
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Congress passive as spending cuts near

The campaign-style event at the White House auditorium with Congress out of town for a week was an attempt by Obama to amplify his message for averting the cuts, known in Washington jargon as sequestration.

John King explains: Spending cuts

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    John King explains: Spending cuts

John King explains: Spending cuts 01:35
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Bracing for forced spending cuts

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    Bracing for forced spending cuts

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Barrasso: Spending cuts will go through

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    Barrasso: Spending cuts will go through

Barrasso: Spending cuts will go through 07:19
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His intention was to inspire public outrage at the potential new reality.

The forced cuts aimed at deficit-reduction have been hanging over Washington since 2011. They were initially proposed by the White House and then approved by Congress as part of a deal to allow continued borrowing by the Treasury to pay the nation's bills.

Opinion: Forced budget cuts a disaster for military

The deal established a bipartisan committee tasked with presenting a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan to Congress by that November. That group - dubbed the "super committee" - failed to reach any sort of agreement.

The "tough cuts" that were designed to be so objectionable were set to take effect this past January -- about $1 trillion over 10 years. Because that was also the date that the Bush-era tax cuts would expire, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dubbed the combination the "fiscal cliff."

The plan was to eventually negotiate a deal so the cuts would never be set in motion.

Borger: Obama can't kick his legacy down the road

Heading out of the 2012 election and into this year and with no deal in sight, the cliff loomed large. The rhetoric was heated and the political maneuvering fierce.

Obama sought an agreement with congressional leadership and held events surrounded by middle class Americans, publicly announcing his desire for "a big deal."

But with a promise to increase taxes on wealthy Americans at the center of his re-election campaign, Obama focused most of his efforts on finding a tax compromise, rather than avoiding the looming spending cuts.

Blind budget cuts, explained

In an 11th-hour agreement on tax hikes for upper income Americans deferred the spending cuts for another two months. Now, that time is nearly up and Congress is no closer to a resolution.

Over the past several weeks, Obama called for a "balanced" approach to deficit reduction, one that includes tax reforms that increase government revenue.

Obama, Republicans clash on forced spending cuts

He also appealed to Congress for a smaller package of austerity and tax reforms "that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months" until lawmakers could find a "smarter solution."

Republican leaders insist any package must be comprised entirely of alternative spending reductions, including entitlement reform.

Just like he did on the tax issue around the fiscal cliff, Obama will step up his efforts to get Congress to act to avoid the sequester cuts, White House officials tell CNN.

The approach will mean more events like the one on Tuesday marked by emotional rhetoric and average Americans as backdrops. Obama plans to travel as well to highlight the impact of cuts on everyday Americans.

By the Numbers: Automatic spending cuts

      Forced Budget Cuts

    • United States Marines are being told to preserve ammunition and gasoline as a deal softening the impact of automatic spending cuts continues to elude leaders in Washington.
    • The political bickering over the automatic spending cuts has done little but cloud the public's understanding of what's going on and why. So we'll try to set the record straight on at least a few oft-repeated misconceptions.
    • sequester impact acosta pkg_00001719.jpg

      We've had enough of the Beltway's wacky terms. Using fancy-pants words to dramatize and complicate otherwise simple concepts is becoming a habit of lawmakers.
    • Here we go: A new round of confrontation between the White House and Congress over the federal budget is in the offing, this time in a new attempt to avert the looming "sequestration" process.
    • Most Americans will feel the impact of forced budget cuts when their lives intersect with government -- trying to get through airport security to make a flight, visiting a national park, or using federal programs or assistance.
    • WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Facing a divided Congress, Obama concentrated his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and said, 'It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth'. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      Forced budget cuts aren't the only fiscal headache facing Congress. On March 27, the so-called continuing resolution that funds federal programs runs out and the government could shut down.
    • Two days after a Federal Aviation Administration official told contractors that steps were being taken to shut down 168 air traffic control towers on April 1, the agency gave the towers an unexpected reprieve Friday, saying the official's comments were "unauthorized."
    • The US Capitol dome and it's reflection are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 29, 2012. As the fiscal cliff deadline looms, Congress and the White House have still not reached a compromise. If no deal is struck by December 31 at midnight, taxes will automatically go up on both high earners and the middle class, and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

      From military training to educational grants to border patrols to hurricane relief, federal agencies face $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts this year.
    • The sequester would touch many, many government programs and services. These 57 are a somewhat random sampling of what could happen.