As the clock ticks on the automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama will hold an event this morning to urge Congress to come up with an alternative plan to avert the cuts.
The White House says Mr. Obama will emphasize the potential negative effects of the so-called sequester - the $1.2 trillion over 10 years in cuts - by standing with first responders, people who the White House says will be directly affected by the cuts.
The president "will be joined at the White House by emergency responders - the kinds of working Americans whose jobs are on the line if Congressional Republicans fail to compromise on a balanced solution," a White House official said in a statement.
"The President will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice: do they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?" the official continued.
The $1.2 trillion sequester cuts, which were initially set to kick in on Jan. 1, emerged out of Congress' 2011 budget negotiations. Congress agreed that if a congressional "supercommittee" couldn't come up with an acceptable deficit reduction plan, Congress would just slash $1.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years -- half coming from defense spending and half from non-defense. The cuts were designed to be so drastic that Republicans and Democrats would be compelled to craft an alternate, bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction.
Ten days out, however, no single substitute plan exists and lawmakers are on a week's recess until next Monday.
Economists agree the steep, across-the-board cuts would slow the economy. The White Housethe ways the sequester would hurt the middle class, from slashing education programs to small business loan guarantees. Taking $1.2 trillion out of the economy would put close to a million jobs at risk, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated.
The president and his chief of staff Denis McDonough have publicly prodded Congress multiple times since Mr. Obama's State of the Union address last Tuesday, emphasizing education, manufacturing, and immigration reform as the keys to growth. In his weekly address over the weekend, Mr. Obama lobbied for his "balanced approach" to deficit reduction that would combine "responsible reforms" on health care spending and taxes to stabilize our finances.
The president contrasted his approach with Republicans, who have proposed "even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits."
"That won't work," Mr. Obama said. "We can't just cut our way to prosperity."
Meantime, McDonough said the president hasn't "given up" on coming up with an alternative to avert the current set of cuts and he's doing "everything he can to not let this happen." In his State of the Union address last 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," McDonough said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"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."