“This work and hundreds of thousands of jobs are currently in jeopardy because of politics in Washington,” Obama said. “In a few days, Congress might allow a series of immediate painful arbitrary budget cuts to take place.”
The campaign-style rally at a factory that helps build sections of Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines was the president’s latest bid to raise public alarm over the cuts. He has demanded that Congress support a mix of higher tax revenues and targeted spending cuts to Medicare and other social programs to replace the across-the-board sequester.
“Instead of cutting out . . . special-interest tax loopholes and tax breaks, what the sequester does is use a meat-cleaver approach,” Obama declared, repeating a phrase he has used recently to describe the sequester. “The impact of this policy won’t be felt overnight, but it will be real.”
Republicans have refused to consider raising taxes as part of a sequester deal and have called instead for cuts to health-care programs.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) decried Obama’s trip as political theatrics.
“I don’t think the president’s focused on trying to find a solution to the sequester,” Boehner said Tuesday. “The president has been traveling all over the country, and today going down to Newport News in order to use our military men and women as a prop in yet another campaign rally to support his tax hikes.”
The president’s stop in a Hampton Roads community that relies heavily on defense contracting follows a recent Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll that showed that 55 percent of Americans believe the sequester cuts would have a “major effect” on the U.S. military.
Obama told the crowd that 90,000 civilians in Virginia who work for the Pentagon would face unpaid furloughs if the forced spending cuts are made. He described a litany of problems including less financial aid for college students and reduced early childhood education for young children.
He also expressed skepticism about a proposal being considered by Republicans that would keep the $85 billion in cuts this fiscal year but give the administration more flexibility in where and how to slash program budgets.
“There’s no smart way to do that,” Obama said. “I do not want to choose between, ‘Let’s see, do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy ship yard or some other one?’”
And even as he has repeatedly slammed Republicans for failing to compromise with him — accusing them on Tuesday of threatening to drag the country back into recession — Obama professed that he was “not interested in playing a blame game.”