WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that steep spending
reductions could jeopardize America’s military involvement abroad, adding
pressure on Republicans to make a deal to avoid automatic cuts set to take
effect on March 1.
“Already, the threat of these cuts has forced the navy
to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf,”
Obama said during public remarks attended by first-responders whose positions
would be affected by the automatic cuts, known as budget
“Changes like this affect our ability to respond to
threats in unstable parts of the world,” Obama said. He also listed dangers to
American domestic programs and the economy.
US Secretary of State John
Kerry also warned about the possible effects of sequestration on the Middle East
in a letter he wrote to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), chairwoman of the
Senate Appropriations Committee, last week.
“Cuts of this magnitude would
seriously impair our ability to execute our vital missions of national security,
diplomacy and development,” he said, mentioning possible cuts in aid to Israel,
Jordan and Egypt.
Without a deal, close to $1 trillion in
across-the-board cuts – half to be shouldered by the Pentagon – are slated to go
into effect under laws signed by Congress. Since the two parties haven’t been
able to agree on how to reduce the staggering deficit, these cuts were designed
to be so appalling that their prospect would cause both sides to make tough
But no agreement has been reached, with less than two weeks
left before the sequestration deadline.
Congress could agree, though, to
stop-gap measures before and after March 1, to blunt the impact. Some analysts
see the threat of the cuts as overblown, since Democratic leaders are hoping
warnings such as these will put more pressure on the GOP to make concessions.
Republican leaders, however, said events such as the one the president staged
Tuesday wouldn’t bring progress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
of Kentucky called the display a “campaign-style” event rather than one of
And Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said that it
was Obama who was refusing to make compromises.
“Just last month, the
president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he’s already back for more,”
Boehner said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.