Obama has "not given up" on averting sequester, McDonough says

(CBS News) As the March 1 deadline nears when dramatic, across-the-board "sequester" cuts are set to automatically trigger, President Obama has "not given up on" passing an alternative that would not be so potentially devastating to the U.S. economy, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said today on "Face the Nation."

The "draconian" cuts - as Bob Schieffer characterized them; "rightly so," McDonough agreed - were designed to be so drastic that Republicans and Democrats would be forced to reach an alternate, bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction. Though both sides agree the "sequester" should be averted, they've not yet been able to come up with a substitute plan.

In his State of the Union address earlier this week, McDonough said, the president laid out what he's prepared to offer to avoid the cuts.

"We're ready to do another trillion-and-a-half to get to the $4 trillion mark that every economist in the country says we need to do to stabilize the debt problem," he said. "Now when we think of the kinds of things that we're going to have to invest in, the president has also been very clear that he's ready to take on, as he laid out in the speech, a question like rising health care costs and Medicare."

Proposals being floated by Mr. Obama, as well as the Democrat-controlled Senate, McDonough argued, are "both very balanced plans that get some savings in this deficit fight from spending cuts, and some savings from increased revenues."

"What our friends in the House have told us is that they will not even consider anything that includes increased revenues," he continued. "Not even closing loopholes for corporate jets, closing loopholes for oil and gas companies. That seems to me to be a position that we ought to have them reexamine and come to the table, and let's have a real discussion about it."

But while the president, McDonough insisted, is doing "everything he can to not let this happen," former Gov. Haley Barbour, appearing later in the program, echoed remarks made by House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that the "sequester" is looking increasingly likely to go into effect.

"It was the president's idea when the sequester was proposed to be put into law a couple of years ago, and there are plenty of reasons for to not want it to go into effect, particularly the defense spending," the Mississippi Republican said. "What the Democrats want is another excuse to raise taxes. Their answer to every question is, 'raise taxes.'

"...There are a lot of Republicans that don't like parts of [the sequester], but they understand we've come to a point where we've got to take action about spending," Barbour continued. "And the Democrats say the real answer is to have 50 percent more tax increases."

In the same segment, Democratic Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker also weighed in on the likelihood of the sequester threat becoming real.

"I pray it doesn't," he said. "This sequester goes to a place that will hurt small businesses in my community. ...It's going to knock so many kids off things like Head Start and, for me in the daily fight against crime, it's going to hurt law enforcement. It's going to hurt the FBI and others. This is a threat to the nation that every independent economist says would hurt the United State of America, would hurt our economy, would hurt real people on the field. And there's no excuse for it.

"...The challenge I see right now, if this happens, the sequester happens," Booker continued, "the cuts will be blunt, brutal and blind, as opposed to being intelligent and insightful. And it will not invest. It will stop us from investing in those critical areas in America we must invest on if we want long-term economic growth."

  • Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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