Maggie: President Obama surrounded himself with police and firefighters yesterday to send a message to Congress. He says emergency workers are just one group that will lose jobs unless lawmakers avoid the latest budget deadline.
President Obama: FBI agents will be furloughed. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.
Maggie: $85 billion in cuts, known as the sequester, are set to take effect in nine days, impacting almost every Washington agency.
President Obama: These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs.
Maggie: And the mandatory cuts could affect things you use every day. Food safety employees could be temporarily fired, leading to a shortage of meat, poultry and eggs, and pushing up food prices. Fifty thousand TSA workers could see their hours cut back. That could mean longer security lines for air travelers. And more than 350,000 people who need mental health treatment could be denied. Hundreds of thousands of government workers, from teachers to federal law enforcement agents, are likely to be temporarily fired as well. And the Department of Defense faces the biggest cuts – about $46 billion.
Former Senator Sam Nunn was the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Sam Nunn: The way they’ve cut the defense budget is the worst possible way, and it’s the most inefficient way, and it’s the way that will do the most damage to our security.
Maggie: The White House says these cuts are so steep they could further damage the struggling economy. The president wants Congress to pass a solution that includes both spending cuts and tax increases. But many Republicans don’t want any more tax hikes after they already compromised during the last budget negotiation. They have proposed some cuts in spending and changes to the tax system as part of their budget deal.
Republican senator: Let me be very clear, and I’d say this to the president as I say it to you, these spending cuts are going to go through on March 1st.
Maggie: Washington lawmakers created this deadline believing it would force both sides to reach a broad budget deal. They are on vacation this week, leaving just a few days to try to find a solution when Congress returns next week.
Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.