Obama Presses for Late Rethink on Cuts

Barack Obama Sequester
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The White House has stepped up its campaign to force Republicans to renegotiate deep budget cuts due to be enforced at the end of the week by detailing their impact on all of the country's 50 states.

President Barack Obama was due to address state governors in Washington on Sunday, and key Democratic governors were deployed across the political talk shows to press their case.

"The effects will be significant, and people will feel them," Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado said on CBS's Face the Nation.

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"There is no doubt about it" that the required cuts "could put us right back where we were [in recession]," said Jack Markell of Delaware on Fox News Sunday. The cuts would have "a real big impact on the economy and jobs", he added.

Republicans have not relented on sequestration – automatic across-the-board cuts to defense and discretionary spending worth $1.2 trillion over a decade.

Though the cuts will be phased in, the impact will be felt soon after their March 1 start date, with the administration warning of delays at airports and cuts in jobless benefits and government services.

The White House is demanding that the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction be renegotiated to include revenue-raising measures such as closing tax loopholes. Republicans insist that the 2011 deal on sequestration was for spending cuts alone.

(Read More: Obama Warns Sequester Will Cause Job Losses)

The slow-motion unfolding of the cuts has robbed the latest stand-off of the drama and brinkmanship that has characterized the multiple clashes over the deficit between the White House and Republicans in the past two years. But the cuts, unless unwound, threaten to undermine the fragile economic recovery at the start of Mr Obama's second term and his ability to pursue other reforms.

Mr Obama and his supporters are attempting to use his extensive grassroots base to put pressure on Republicans to return the negotiating table, so far with little discernible effect.

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The design of the cuts – with half coming from the Pentagon – may eventually give the White House some leverage, as Republicans are split over forcing such a heavy burden on the defense budget.

"I think that what we are doing to the men and women who are serving is unconscionable, because they deserve a predictable life in the military," said John McCain, the hawkish Republican senator.

The origin of sequestration lies in the budget confrontation in 2011 between the White House and Republicans in the House of Representatives that brought the US to the brink of sovereign default.

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Unable to agree how to cut the budget, the two sides agreed to appoint a congressional committee to find the money, on the understanding that sequestration threat would force a deal.