Obama again warns Congress on sequester

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President Obama again rang the alarm bell on the so-called "sequester" Saturday in his weekly address, calling on Congress to act now to avert the "deep, indiscriminate" spending cuts due to land on March 1.

The president warned of the dire impact on the nation's economy and national security if Congress fails to act.

"If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off," he said. "All our economic progress could be put at risk."

Mr. Obama's remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would "threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class."

Republicans, for their part, have laid the blame for the sequester squarely at the feet of the White House.

"We know the President's sequester will have consequences," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. "What we don't know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms."

The president also warned of the sequester's "impact on our military readiness" that could "affect our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has repeatedly warned of the sequester's potential impact on national security, called on Congress during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday to do "whatever you can do" to avoid the sequester.

"I cannot imagine," Panetta said, "that people would stand by and deliberately hurt this country, in terms of our national defense, by letting this take place."

In a speech earlier in the week, Panetta described the cuts as "legislative madness" - a proposal "designed to be so bad...that no one in their right mind would let it happen."

But despite all the doomsday rhetoric, "the good news is, there's another option," Mr. Obama said in his address.

He called on Congress to "pass...balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution."

The president said Republicans "would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy."

Meanwhile, delivering the GOP's weekly address, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski sounded off on energy independence.

Murkowski touted a blueprint she unveiled this week that would help "make energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure."

"Energy is not a necessary evil. Energy is good," Murkowski said. "We can end our dependence on OPEC oil. We can make renewable energy more competitive ...We can ensure that research, not endless regulation, is the force behind technological innovation."

Her blueprint, Murkowski said, would "provide a prudent alternative to the heavy-handed approaches coming from the administration and the EPA."