Obama on sequester: ‘The pain … will be real’

President Obama on Friday appeared resigned to the fact that sequester will go into effect and emphasized that, even as the dramatic spending cuts won't be instantaneous or disastrous, the country will pay a price.

"Not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real," Obama said at a White House press conference. He added later: "I don't anticipate a huge financial crisis, but people are going to be hurt."

The president said he would continue to push for a sequester replacement but also suggested that the country faces a future under those spending cuts. "We will get through this as well, even with these cuts in place," he said.

Obama had met with congressional leaders earlier Friday morning, but the meeting produced no agreements.

Obama repeated the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that the sequester could cost the country 750,000 jobs and could slow growth. Each time the country gets economic news, he said, "that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act."

Republicans have suggested that the White House is over-selling the negative effects of the sequester.

Obama also responded to GOP allegations that he has failed to lead. One reporter suggested that Obama could lock congressional leaders in a room until they come to a deal.

"I am not a dictator; I'm the president," Obama said. "I can't have Secret Service block the doorway."

On Thursday, the Senate failed to pass either a Republican or a Democratic sequester replacement bill, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that he would not broker a "last-minute, back-room deal" to avert the cuts.

Technically, the cuts go into effect whenever the president decides they do, but he has to set them in motion sometime before midnight.

White House press secretary Jay Carney walked out of briefing room without answering questions about whether Obama has signed the order instituting the sequester.

The full transcript of the press conference can be found here.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | March 1, 2013