WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama warned Congress on Monday that he would veto any legislative attempt to escape automatic cuts triggered by the failure to reach a long-term debt reduction deal.
“There’s still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voice of reason and compromise,” Obama said as lawmakers announced that efforts by a congressional supercommittee to reach a deal had failed.
The announcement confirmed widespread expectations that the 12-member panel would fail in its mission to cut US deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years amid partisan feuds over tax hikes for the rich and cuts to social spending.
Under the August law that begat the committee as part of a deal to extend the US borrowing limit, the deadlock calls for draconian automatic cuts to domestic programs and military spending come January 2013.
Lawmakers who believed the extended delay before the cuts come into force allowed plenty of time to repeal those cutbacks may have to think again after the president said he would block such a move.
“I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one,” Obama said.
“The only way the spending cuts will not take place is if Congress gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion,” he said.
“That’s exactly what they need to do. That’s the job they promised to do. They’ve still got a year to figure it out.”
Obama held out hope for a new deal and reassured the markets by saying that despite a ballooning national debt in excess of $15 trillion, there was no imminent threat of the United States defaulting.
“Although Congress has not come to an agreement yet, nothing prevents them from coming up with the agreement in days ahead. They can still come together, around a balanced plan,” he said.
“I believe Democrats are prepared to do so. My expectation is that there will be some Republicans who are still interested in preventing the automatic cuts from taking place and, as I have said from the beginning, I stand ready and willing to work with anybody that’s ready to engage in that effort.”